Silenced: Chapter 4, Part 2: Baldwin Dengler and His Giant Sammich

Time to meet the leader of Teh Ntire Atheistopia, “peacenik” Baldwin Dengler.

Paul shows up at the gorgeous gubmint building where he will be spending the night, and the first thing we learn is that Paul keeps a disgusting stash of undercover disguises in a plastic garbage bag, which he totes around the planet with him so the clothes will stay dirty and stinky, and Paul can pretend to be somebody gross.

I mean, somebody who is gross on the outside.  The inside part, Paul already has covered.

As usual, we get far more description of secondary characters than our mains:

The chancellor was as tall as Paul, sixty-five years old, slim, trim, tanned, with thinning gray-and-white hair.  He extended a hand, and when Paul shook it, Dengler clasped his other hand around Paul’s, too.  Exceptionally long fingers, Paul thought.

What the…

I…why?

So the leader of the whole world has very long fingers.  Um, so?  Is Jenkins trying to tell us that Dengler has Marfan syndrome?  Are really long fingers just an indication of evil?

And it is interesting that Paul has branched out from mere height and weight estimates of every man he meets, on to finger assessment.

They eat, and once again, Jenkins provides better description of food than he does of people.  For effect, the meal is served out of fancy lunch bags:

Servers simultaneously opened the men’s bags and set on each plate a gleaming green apple, a triangle of Swiss cheese the size of a piece of pie, a two-inch-square block of chocolate, and what appeared to be a large wrapped sandwich.

I love cheese, but I cannot imagine eating a whole piece of it that is as big as a piece of pie.  Jenkins must have been really hungry when he wrote this.

Anyway…

Paul unwrapped his sandwich and found the thin-sliced summer sausage piled an inch and a half high between two ridiculously thick slices of fresh, soft white bread with moist, chewy crust.  He also noticed a thin layer of brown mustard and a generous dollop of mayonnaise.

Sounds disgusting, thank you very much.  I’ll pass.

“Follow each bite with a slice of the apple,” Dengler suggested, “and the occasional piece of cheese.  Save the chocolate for dessert.”

Well, fine, Mr. Bossy-Pants!

Yanno, I hate to defend Paul at any time, about anything, but he is a grown man, and probably knows how to eat lunch.  And geez, save the chocolate for dessert?  Well, thank God goodness you are here, Baldwin, because I could never have figured that out for myself!

Also, that piece of cheese is the size of a piece of pie (no, I am not ever getting over this!); I think it will take more than “occasional” bites to finish off that monster.

Maybe it was the exotic combination of foods he wouldn’t have predicted in a million years.  But Paul found the meal the best he had ever tasted.

Exotic?  Oh yeah, there’s nothing more exotic than a sammich and a piece of cheese and an apple!

Then again, this apparently is a man who has to be told that chocolate is for dessert.

Now, one might consider that many hundreds of people have just been brutally murdered, and several world landmarks destroyed, and Dengler and Paul might have important things to talk about, but hey, they have to eat, too.  I get that.

What I don’t get is that the next few minutes are taken up by an interminable conversation about the crabby chauffeur who drove Paul in from the airport.  Dengler gets a note that the man was rude, and the two men debate and debate and DEBATE what should be done with him.  Paul argues for leniency, but this is not so much about being kind and understanding, as it is about Paul’s need to prove that he is above being bothered by such trivialities:

“…I suppose my self-esteem is healthy enough to weather that…”

“…I would feel terrible if I got a man in trouble for something that barely registered with me.”

The driver is fired without severance or anything, which does not seem very in keeping with the ideals of Atheistopia, Mister Chancellor.

And Paul and Dengler finally start discussing the situation at hand.

Not that we’ll hear anything of it.

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Posted on August 18, 2013, in Books, Silenced. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Exceptionally long fingers, Paul thought.

    You know who else had a finger fetish? That heathen liberal economist John Maynard Keynes.

    • Okay, so… lemme get this straight.

      They eat lunch out of lunch bags like they’re still in high school, instead of eating at some classy restaurant as befits Ballldangler* being a high level boss dude, and Dengler just goes around randomly firing people just so he can talk to Paul Douchebag all by himself.

      HOW DOES ANY OF THAT MAKE ANY GODDAMN SENSE.


      * Seriously, tell me that doesn’t suggest itself to you when you see that name, Baldwin Dengler.

      • inquisitiveraven

        The thing that really struck me as weird is that they’re eating out of bags that are being handled by servants? WTF? If you’re having someone serve the food to you, why not just have it presented on trays, possibly with domed covers if you want to surprise your guest?

        Oh, and a triangle of Swiss cheese the size of a piece of pie? I assume he means a wedge, but a wheel of cheese is several times thicker than a pie, and pie slices vary (20 cm pie? 23 cm pie? How many slices to the pie? 6? 8? ) That’s not a really helpful description.

        • Jenkins’ rejected descriptions:

          The piece of chocolate was as big as a stone.

          The sandwich was as big around as a string.

          Dengler was as tall as a man.

  2. I really don’t get this garbage bag business.

    Paul packs around a garbage bag filled with disguises…?! Really? This plot is holeier than the Bible.

  3. Wasn’t it told in the last book that it’s rare to see a homeless person in Atheistopia? Wouldn’t Paul’s disguise of stinky vagrant draw more attention than about anything else? How is this supposed to make sense?

    • This is such a good point, and something I had not considered! Thanks! 😀

      • Wait, so Paul ACTUALLY DOES carry a bag of stankified clothes around for a homeless disguise? I thought Ruby was just being sarcastic.

        I …

      • And the worst part is, if it’s mentioned explicitly, we’re going to have to suffer through a scene where he uses it.

        • Not necessarily: this is Jenkins, after all.

        • I considered that, but that bit of text isn’t about a phonecall, travel logistics problem, luxerious appartment or something that makes his character look cool. Any of those might things might have been added for no narrative reason, but something like this will probably be used.

          And I’m sure when a priviliged character with questionable morals, written by a priviliged author with questionable morals, acts like an underpriviliged poor man, it’ll be with all the subtlety and empathy of a minstrel show.

          • It’s just really hard, in these books, to guess which bizarre details are going to matter later and which are just … bizarre details. The law of conservation of detail is blithely ignored; we get weird fixations on minor scene trappings, then none of these come into play when the conflict is resolved (which, more often than not, is through some literal miracle out of nowhere).

            This week’s excerpt. Perfect example. Characters eat lunch and it’s fine to describe the food that is served, but then comes this:

            [Paul] also noticed a thin layer of brown mustard and a generous dollop of mayonnaise.

            And unless there’s a later scene where Paul needs to escape from the building and he uses the mustard to mix an explosive, there’s just no need for this sentence. Even Sherlock Holmes would find this overly detailed and would advise Jenkins to cool it. I agree with Ruby, Jenkins probably wrote this scene just before lunchtime. He might even have swapped his Silenced notes with his Jimmy John’s lunch order.

            I do agree that Paul is likely to wear his Captain Homeless disguise at some point, as Jenkins believes it will showcase Paul’s super spy skills. And when that scene comes, no doubt it’ll be AMAZING.

  4. When my mother is talking about something that happened or something someone has done, I’m always checking if she says “En dat geeft niet”, roughly translated to “It doesn’t matter”, or “And that’s fine” in a specific tone of voice. Because that phrase will be repeated a few times as she’s telling every way the event pissed her off.

    That’s what Paul’s assurances here remind me of. “Oh, it barely registered with me. I’m just bringing it up to the absolute ruler* of the One World Government, but it’s not like I care that he’s punished for his insolence or anything.”

    *Do we get any confirmation that he is an absolute ruler? I can’t imagine Jenkins has pictured his global atheist government as a democratically elected official with lots of checks and balances on his power. Cause we all know only America is a proper democracy, and only because it’s constitution is based on the bible.

  5. Long fingers are… creepy? Body-image othering FTW!

    I’m not convinced the garbage bag would work. In a closed environment you’ll end up with mould and such like, not the sweat-life you’d get on a genuine unwashed person.

    I’m getting mixed messages from the sandwich. Is it meant to be ridiculously decadent and overblown? But Paul likes it. (I know, sometimes a sandwich is just a sandwich.) And yeah, apocalypsereview, why not go to a flashy restaurant? Jenkins likes writing about implausible flashy restaurants!

    In Atheistopia, there’s no need for severance pay, because the Guaranteed Basic Income is enough to live on.

    Ivan, the RTC attitude to forms of government is very weird to me. They have dictatorships, and so their voting is a sham; We need democratic forms, but with a strong unquestioned leader to keep the country on the right track.

  6. It’s Switzerland, so of course they eat Swiss cheese and chocolate at every meal! In the afternoon they’ll snack on some pocket watches.

  7. Maybe the cheese is only the size of a very flat piece of pie? A pie-sized wedge of cheese that’s only a half-centimeter thick would be a reasonable accompaniment to a large sandwich. (Although, why not then just slice it a little thinner and just put it directly on the sandwich?) Or maybe Jenkins is just really strongly accustomed to getting super-thin pieces of pie.

    I vaguely recall long fingers being associated with aristocracy, so I’m guessing Dengler’s going to be portrayed as a refined and genteel, yet impractical and out-of-touch, old-world blue-blood.

  8. Didn’t Jenkins write a scene in the LB books where one of the main characters is newly vegetarian and can’t figure out what to order, so his dinner companion orders apples and bread with butter and then proceeds to cut the apples and butter the bread for him? I’m starting to think that Jenkins is some kind of vampire with only the vaguest notion of how this thing called “food” works.

    • inquisitiveraven

      That might explain the “steaming piles of fresh produce, drenched in butter” from Kingdom Come. FTM, that might explain his description of where the butter came from.

      He also has no idea how solar cookery works despite the fact that people actually build solar ovens and what amounts to cooktops IRL. IIRC, he has Rayford doing something with magnifying glasses despite the fact that every design I’ve ever come across use reflectors.

      • It may just be my ever-deepening cynicism, but I think Occam indicates that anything outside Jenkins’ everyday experience gets just the thinnest scrim of research because he simply doesn’t care (and because the readers won’t know or care either).

  9. “Exceptionally long fingers” says concert pianist to me. Which makes the ruler of the world a pleasingly accomplished individual.

    (Actually not strictly true, when you start looking. Daniel Barenboim, for example, doesn’t have particularly beautiful hands. Still, that’s what the cliché says to me.)

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, September 1st | The Slacktiverse

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