The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 19 review

I’m currently reviewing chapters of War of the Encyclopaedists by Gavin Kovite and Christopher Robinson. As a Dune novel it’s pretty awful. This is pretty great reading material if you want to start writing fantasy novels. I feel like I’m learning a lot about the craft of writing just by obsessively pouring over these chapters.

Look forward to my own upcoming novel tentatively titled Of Swords and Worms a sequel to Of Towers and Swords.

Chapter 19 is a Montauk chapter in Baghdad. It’s noteworthy for being the first Baghdad Chapter. It makes me wonder, what parallels await us between Baghdad and Boston?

Montauk arrives in Baghdad by way of a Black Hawk. Along the way he sees some teenagers chilling on a roof of a building. One of them waves, and Montauk waves back.

On the roof of a larger three-story, some teenagers sat in lawn chairs. Montauk was touched by a momentary envy. In Seattle, roof-tops were angled and shingled, due to the rain.

There are actually a surprising number of exceptions to this observation in Capitol Hill, which I assume Montauk would know, but is probably thinking of more suburban areas where he probably grew up.

Baghdad from the air was a land of fantasy, ripped right out of some cartoonish video game.

I don’t really see Montauk as much of a video game guy, so I’m going to assume he’s thinking of Agrabah perhaps?

Saddam was a cheesy son of a bitch, yes. But there was something awesome about commissioning an official government sculpture of your own hands holding 140-foot sabers, to be placed in the middle of the city.

I wonder if it could be argued that Saddam was functional a “millennial” and just trying to deal with his own lack of importance and ended up overcompensating.

Montauk daydreamed of his own self-aggrandizing public art pieces.

Which leads to:

A vision came to him: looming over acres of tombstones in Arlington Cemetery, a hundred-foot-high statue of himself, shirtless, pointing a big-ass Rambo M-60 to the sky, Corderoy’s mom clinging to his side in a tattered dress, her romance-novel melons barely concealed, and Corderoy at his feet, hunched like Gollum with clawed fingers and giant yellow eyes.

I was trying to think of this was any specific reference, but I haven’t found it yet. The reference

Corderoy’s mother is an interesting choice when you see that any time they meet up they generally make a reference to some kind of sexual adventure involving their respective mothers. Seeing Corderoy as a Gollum-like creature is an interesting bit of foreshadowing as well, Montauk might be a little prescient.

He’d joined the National Guard back before the Twin Towers fell, a blink in the eye of history but a long time ago for Montauk.

Interesting because Montauk signed up before the Towers fell which seems to be the kind of thing Tricia wanted to do after they fell.

He enters the presidential palace.

They entered and climbed the marble staircase to the rotunda, which was hung with a large Old Glory and an even larger Texan flag. It must have been forty feet long. No need for all those stars and stripes, just one stripe each of red and white and one big-ass star. Protected by niggas with big dicks, AKs, and 187 skills, Montauk recalled Snoop Dogg saying, apropos of something or other.

I did a search and the song Montauk is referencing is “The Chronic (Intro)” by Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg. I suppose the self-aggrandizing of Saddam has some of the same roots in the braggadocio of hip hop.

Montauk meets with his liaison. The word “liaison” kind of fascinates me for some reason. I just don’t seen many words spelled like that. They talk about flags for a bit but I’m vaguely certain they’re actually talking about penises.

They shuttle to the other edge of the “Green Zone”, a pretty awesome sci-fi-esque name. Montauk sees memorials, palm trees, houses (occupied and vacant), convenience stands, palm trees reduced to stumps, the Al Rasheed Hotel.

Large concrete walls were erected around the Green Zone, and the occupation slowly hunkered down in the bunker that would become its prison.

This Green Zone must be a really bizarre place.

A steady trickle of Baghdadis in light, loose clothing or long, black abayas emerged from the gauntlet of the checkpoint and walked through the heat toward the Convention Center. For what? To apply for jobs, to get some kind of handout or reparations payment from the occupation, to report relatives missing or killed? Montauk looped his front sling over his head and arm so that Molly Millions hung strught down over his vest.

It seems weird to me that after the invasion, the USA was occupying a region, which means that we were in charge. But sounds like (from the Green Zone comments) that we really weren’t in charge of much?

You didn’t belong until someone newer than you came along.

This idle thought of Montauk’s makes me wonder if Corderoy is just suffering from new kid syndrome.

Montauk settles in and meets the people he’s replacing, which he’s greeted with excitement because it means those guys can finally go home. I guess the school analogy is a good one because obviously we have to compare Montauk’s experience to Corderoy’s experience in grad school

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