Silenced: Chapter 1, Part 2: The Decenti Heirs

Two things:

Quick note: I am still trying to figure out Jenkins’ anagram for Ranold B. Decenti.  I am so sick of anagrams!

Jae ponders all the changes that have taken place in Paul over the past few months.  And Jenkins takes the opportunity to muse on how wives should treat their worldly masters husbands.

Jae still didn’t know what to make of the new Paul.  She was grateful, no question.  They had not raised their voices to each other in weeks.

But this trip, he was truly deferential, helpful, kind, as he had been since their return from California.

That’s a strange way to phrase their narrow escape from death by dehydration.  The death that thousands of other human beings suffered.  And we all know why Paul was in such a good mood at that time—he was celebrating.

Even so, this passage hardly seems a description of a happy and healthy marriage.  Paul may not be yelling at Jae anymore, but their relationship seems to have died down into that of two people politely tolerating each other.  Again, the question arises: why didn’t Jae divorce Paul years ago?  She has a supportive family, an advanced degree that could make it very easy for her to earn a comfortable living, and this is a world of secular humanists, and we know how little they value marriage, right?

But no, they’re still together.  And here are the money quotes:

It wasn’t that any weakness revealed itself.  He wasn’t throwing aside his maleness.  He was being a different kind of man, not too big to keep an eye on the kids, help with the luggage, take charge by serving her, doing for her.

Here that, husbands?  Don’t just charge ahead in the airport, keeping fifty paces ahead of your family while the little woman hauls the suitcases off the belt and nurses a baby at the same time.  TAKE CHARGE by serving her.  Because…wait, isn’t some of that luggage his, too?  Has Paul really lived his whole marriage making Jae do everything?

Apparently yes:

She recalled many times having stood waiting, giving him an expectant stare as if silently demanding to know whether he was going to shoulder his part of the load or let her do everything.  It was no wonder he seemed to do it begrudgingly.  But now she didn’t have to wait or wonder, and thus there was no need for the look.

See, husbands???  Just treat your little lady like a human being, and she won’t be a nagging harpy!  At least not openly or out loud!

There was a request for more on Berlitz Decenti, and as it happens, he and Jae have a conversation.  Of course, the conversation is about Paul, the most important human on the planet:

“Hey, Berl,” [Jae] said.  “You guys solve all the problems of the world already?”

“Ah,” [Berlitz] said.  “You know Dad.  I am one of the problems of the world.  Always comparin’ me to Paul.  Paul this and Paul that.”

Jae knitted her brow.  “He did that with Paul there?”

“Not in so many words.  C’mon.  You know how he is.  Oozing disgust for the no-account son.”

“That must’ve made Paul terribly uncomfortable.”

Paul?  What about me?  I was the target.  Paul is the model.”

That’s a damn fine point, Berlitz.  I get that Jae feels she needs to be loyal and sympathetic to Paul, but Paul’s not even there.  It’s just the two of you—show some sympathy for your brother who loves you.

The conversation continues, with Berl expressing his liking for Paul (he clearly doesn’t know him well), and Jae expressing liking for Aryana.

And then this odd little aside, after Berl stumbles drunkenly off to bed:

…[Jae] had to chuckle at her own brother’s name.  It was her father’s mother’s maiden name, but still…to lay that on an unsuspecting son and expect him to deal with it his whole life.  Well, it spoke volumes about her father.

Okay.

It’s probably just my heathenishness coming out, but I think Berlitz is a kinda cool name.  Beats the hell outta “Ranold,” anyway.

Both Paul and Jae have (separately) mused on the stupidity of Berlitz’s name, which is weird for a few reasons:

“Jae” isn’t exactly the most common name in the world, either.  I imagine that Jae has spent a lot of time explaining to people that she is not “Jane.”

Paul has the opposite problem: a very common name.  Paul was probably “Paul S.” in school.

Of course, if Jerry Jenkins was serious about having timely names for his characters, we’d be reading about Jayden S., the underground zealot.

Berlitz was born around 2007, Paul and Jae around 2010.  Ranold and his wife, Margaret, are presumably of my generation: born between the Gen-Xers and the Millenials, around 1980.  (Note: I have never met a Margaret my own age.  There were, however, always many Pauls in my classes.)

All this to say that Paul and Jae need to frack off: most have a problem with their name.

After Jae pities Berlitz (in her head) for his name, Paul comes to bed and pities Berlitz (out loud) for not being able to measure up to Ranold’s expectations.

“Couldn’t you encourage him, Paul?” [Jae asked]

Why didn’t you encourage him, Jae?  HE WAS RIGHT THERE TEN MINUTES AGO.

“I could try.  I don’t want to offend him though.  He’s older than I am, you know.”

Who was this sensitive, new man?  Jae loved him.

Oh Jae, you poor sap.

Also, Berlitz is, like, three years older than Paul.  With both men in their late thirties to early forties, does a few years really make so much difference?  It’s not like they’re 12 and 15 years old.  RTCs are so weird when it comes to age.

***

We cut forward to the day poor, chubby Charlotte met her end, this time from Paul’s perspective, watching it in his Chicago National Peace Organization office, after New Year’s.  Paul has just finished verbally sparring with his “tall, black, and direct” secretary, Felicia, last seen debating “King Day” with Paul in Soon.

Anyway, a Norwegian guy names Styr Magnor has taken credit for the bombing, on behalf of “the millions of underground believers throughout Europe, brothers and sisters to the oppressed in the USSA, and followers of the one true God who had judged the wicked of Los Angeles.”

Paul has to act like he is as outraged as everyone else in the room, even though he doubts Magnor is really Christian underground.  Because since when have Christians ever harmed anyone?  (Los Angeles, of course, doesn’t count.  God did that, not the Christians, so even though they prayed for it, they are totally blameless.  Totally.  Just keep celebrating, Paul.)

So, now we know that Paul’s globetrotting adventures will take him to London!  It’s so sad that the NPO, wanting only to stop this terrorist, thinks having Paul out there will help at all.

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Posted on July 21, 2013, in Books, Silenced. Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. Hmm. Could “Jae” be short of “Jayden”? That might make things an iota more realistic. For Jenkins, anyway. I was born a bit after 1980 and I graduated with a Margaret; she went by Meg. There was also a Maggie at my school who was four years younger than me but I don’t know for certain that her given name was Margaret. Ranold, though . . . I got nothin’.

    (Could “Decenti” be a plan on “descent” as in “descent into hell”?)

    Seems that Jenkins is pulling one of his classic techniques of “what are you gonna believe, what my characters tell you or what your eyes read?” Jae can claim all she wants that Paul is now a strangely wonderful man, but where’s the evidence? And Berl’s brain has been highjacked by Jenkins so that he must shoehorn Paul into conversation without provocation. Poor guy — saddled with a bizarre name and doomed to die as a heathen, thus spending eternity in hell courtesy of the “merciful” RTC god.

    You know, it’s possible Jae has stuck with Paul through the years because she’s got pitifully low self-esteem, or because she’s an abused wife who’s been frightened into staying. There are plenty of nonreligious women out there who stay in marriages when they would be much better off leaving. . . . just sayin’

    • Could “Jae” be short of “Jayden”?

      Sadly, no. Jenkins said he got the name from a commercial. But that would be hilarious!

      (Could “Decenti” be a plan on “descent” as in “descent into hell”?)

      Ranold B. Decenti is definitely an anagram for something. But I’m no fan of anagrams… -_-

      You know, it’s possible Jae has stuck with Paul through the years because she’s got pitifully low self-esteem, or because she’s an abused wife who’s been frightened into staying. There are plenty of nonreligious women out there who stay in marriages when they would be much better off leaving. . . . just sayin’

      Indeed. We know from Soon that Jae had been living with emotional abuse for about a decade, now.

      https://heathencritique.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/chapter-11-emotional-abuse/

      • Indeed. We know from Soon that Jae had been living with emotional abuse for about a decade, now.

        Ahh, that’s right. I think I blocked that part out due to its sheer horribleness.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          “The horror… The horror…”

        • Paul is deferential, helpful, and kind to Jae because he is now aware of a bigger abuser, named God, higher up the food chain. Like all bullies, he folds like wet tissue in the face of a larger bully. He isn’t changed so much as Jesus-whipped.

      • Bond. Interlaced Bond.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Seems that Jenkins is pulling one of his classic techniques of “what are you gonna believe, what my characters tell you or what your eyes read?”

      Or his known obsession with the “See How Clever I Am?” school of character naming.

      The guy has demonstrated a tin ear for the most awful character names, never mind the attempt at Heavy Allegorical Names in an Ian Fleming/Tom Clancy knockoff. In allegory, Allegorical Names are part of the genre; not so in technothriller.

  2. re: ranold the best i could come up with on my own is ‘decent old brian’. i ran the name through the internet anagram server and though there were many anagrams, none seemed relevant. so my best guess is ‘decent old brian’, perhaps a shoutout to one of jenkins’ friends.

  3. A blend doctrine? (Internet Anagram Server). God knows that the author’s doctrine is just taking the parts of the bible he likes, hitting “blend” and pretend that’s all Christianity is.

  4. This portrait of multiple dysfunctional relationships where nobody involved realises how toxic he/she is being is some of the most realistic writing I have ever seen from Jenkins.

    Hoo boy, un-researched London coming up!

  5. So…. Ranold has spent the last several years habitually telling Berlitz he’s no-account compared to a serial cheater and emotional abuser? Ok then.

    I agree that Berlitz seems like a reasonable guy – anyone else finding him reminiscent of Larry the “Late One Night” anti-hero?

  6. I’m late to the party here, but has it been mentioned that Ranold=Arnold, B.Decenti=Benedict?

  7. That Other Jean

    Could Berlitz sound cringe-worthy to the characters because, long before Rosetta Stone took over the market, Berlitz courses were how travelers and businessmen learned new languages? It would be rather like naming your son Keebler–a recognizable brand name, even if it was his female ancestor’s maiden name.

    • Hmm. A decent theory for why _Jenkins_ doesn’t like the name “Berlitz” and therefore all the other characters have to dislike it too.

      The one flaw is that I don’t know how familiar the characters would be with the Berlitz courses. The Muzzy tapes, sure — Ranold and Margaret would have grown up hearing about those. But then, Jenkins is writing this and in his mind, any character over thirty will automatically have the same life experiences and frames of references that he has, no matter how ridiculous that is.

      • My mother is close to Jenkins’ generation, and the language courses were her first association with the name when I mentioned it.

        Just another example of Jenkins forgetting that it’s 40 years in the future. Same reason Ranold talks like a guy born in 1938, not 1978…

      • Berlitz still publishes phrase books, travel guides, and such like; this might be a matter of scanning along an existing bookshelf (with Jenkins’ usual tin ear for names).

        • Or ‘Berlitz’ could be another anagram, though all my anagram solver could come up with was ‘Blitzer’ and ‘Reblitz’. A clue as to what the character will do later in the story?

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy

    You know the real kicker to all this?

    It all started with a decent premise: Retelling the Book of Acts and story of St Paul in a contemporary/near future setting. Giving a fresh perspective on a classic that the entire target audience already knows. Like The Cotton Patch Gospel retelling the life of Christ in a rural Former Confederate States setting and dialect. Or David Drake retelling the Odyssey or Argosy in a far-future Military SF setting.

    This was a premise that actually had a lot of potential. And Jerry “Buck” Jenkins, GCAAT, not only F’ed it up, he F’ed it up the A.

    • Part of the problem with Underground Zealot’s treatment of the premise is that (at least in this universe) the biblical story of St. Paul actually happened; so the life of Paul Stepola isn’t merely a curious literary allusion, it’s straight-up history repeating. And this is barely acknowledged by our Bible-reading characters, even though it should be a source of existential wonder (and dread) to them.

      What does it mean to Paul that his life’s narrative is basically a rehash of events from 2,000 years ago, even down to the names? Is he just a puppet of the cosmos, or worse yet, a character in a poorly-written book series? If I were Paul, one of my first theories would be reincarnation; and yet reincarnation isn’t part of the theology, so who’s wrong, Paul or his religion? Moreover, what does this say about God — does he not have a lot of imagination, or what? Or maybe God was somehow unhappy with the life of St. Paul, and now he’s running the scenario again in hopes of a “better” result. If so, it’s important to Paul that he learn God’s desired endgame.

      Bottom line, the parallels in Underground Zealot are so clunky and on-the-nose that not only should they be constantly be remarked upon by the characters, the parallels should actually be the plot. By this point, the doings of the Atheistapo should be a long-forgotten subplot, while Paul and his allies focus on uncovering the secret meaning of their existence. They should be searching historical records to see if this has happened to other Pauls over the centuries, and if so, how many (perhaps hundreds!). They should be taking apart Acts with a fine-toothed comb to predict future events. They should be anagramming everyone they meet as obsessively as we do.

      • Well, Jenkins more famous work is also about God calling a do-over on a Biblical event. It’s all about not being all that happy with Jesus being all nice and forgiving and accepting. So for round two, Jesus will come back to crush, kill and destroy.

        Or maybe it was like a gamer doing two runs of a game with a moral choice system. The first run he wants to get the good ending, which means he must be sinless. So he has to play everyting the nice way. Once he’s got the “Mankind’s salvation” achievement, he can go for the Renegade option and blow everything right the fuck up.

  9. inquisitiveraven

    Oddly, giving the eldest son his mother’s maiden name is customary in some parts of the US (notably in the South AFAIK). If Ranold grew up in such a region and moved to a region where that is not the custom, then the name might seem ordinary to him while seeming weird to the rest of the family who did not grow up with that custom. Jenkins, of course, may have met people named in that fashion, but since he doesn’t do research wouldn’t realize it’s normal in some places.

  10. “tall, black, and direct”

    I like my supporting characters like my coffee…

    Paul has to act like he is as outraged as everyone else in the room, even though he doubts Magnor is really Christian underground.

    “Styr Magnor” anagrams to “Martyr Song”, “Angry Storm” and “Army Strong”, so he’s probably on the level. Chill, Paul.

    • “Styr Magnor” anagrams to “Martyr Song”, “Angry Storm” and “Army Strong”, so he’s probably on the level. Chill, Paul.

      And the award for figuring out the entire mystery in the first chapter goes to Vermic!

      (And no, I will not say which anagram is correct…yet.)

    • Are you sure you can’t get “Stormageddon” out of it? I was so disappointed when the new prince wasn’t named that, I’d love to see it here instead.

  11. You know, if Ashnak hadn’t figured it out, I was going to say that perhaps “Ranold” started out as a typo of the perfectly ordinary “Ronald”, and Jenkins legendary distaste for actual editing meant he was stuck with it for the rest of the series…

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, July 28 2013 | The Slacktiverse

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