Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 22

In this chapter of the worst book of the 1980's, we get to meet Satan! Aren't you excited?

Don't be. Michelle Remembers Satan is really, really annoying, for reasons that will become obvious as soon as we see him in-text.

Michelle comes in for her next therapy session and starts "remembering" very reluctantly, convinced that something big and unusual is going to happen in her next memory. She finds herself in the round room in time for some sort of major ceremony:

Everything was black. And the black was moving. Surging like a stormy sea. The people were all wearing black monklike robes, girdled with black rope. There were many, many more people--a huge crowd--and it seemed that they had gathered from all the corners of the earth. Their voices carried foreign inflections, and as alike as they were in their attire, their varied postures and movements gave the sense of a great mixture of humanity.

Gee, that round room must be pretty darn big if it has room for a tacky 70's bed, candelabras, a stage with a life-sized Satan statue on it, and every Satanist in the whole world (a population, remember, which probably includes literally every human being who lives in Africa if Dr. Pazder is to be believed). Now I really want to know where this building is, and how in the flying fuck Pazder and Michelle think it can exist without anyone but the cult knowing about it. Towering, ominous, windowless stone domes aren't generally the kind of structure people just forget about seeing, you know?

The fire is still burning in the middle of the room, and Michelle is sitting near it. Meanwhile, the cultists split into three groups and form three circles around the fire--enclosing Michelle as well, and begin an intricate dance around the fire. Michelle mentions that one group is composed entirely of women, one entirely of men, and then the third has both men and women in its ranks. She also says that each group has a different function: One is primarily concerned with casting curses on enemies, for instance. This sounds like interesting information, so of course it isn't explored any further. Instead the cultists abruptly pick Michelle up and begin passing her around their circles, doing that weird cardinal-directions-pointing ritual whose purpose won't be explained in this chapter either. Michelle's wording suggests that every single cultist does this to her separately, which must take a long goddamn time considering how many people are in the room. Like, five full Catholic Masses long.

Seriously, don't these people have jobs and family obligations to attend to in the real world? How does nobody who knows them ever notice that they routinely disappear on five-day-long child-flinging binges?

Michelle then interrupts the narrative to have some sort of spiritual experience for three and a half pages.

Look, I have nothing against spiritual experiences. But they are very much not a one-size-fits-all deal, and one person's transformative, healing event may very well be bizarre, or even nightmarish, to someone else. That's why they're so difficult to do well in books. You've got to be a very, very good writer to pull one off in such a way that it won't bore or freak out your audience, and as I've stated before, our authors just aren't up to the task.

Dr. Pazder engages Michelle in a long, halting recitation of what sounds like an abridged version of the Nicene Creed, and Dr. Pazder is amazed that Michelle was able to repeat a bit from a popular Catholic and Anglican prayer in French after having grown up in a country where 22% of the population are native French speakers. True, Michelle and Dr. Pazder live on the other side of the country from Quebec, the province where most of the Francophone population is concentrated, and Michelle claims she's so bad at languages that she couldn't pass her required French classes in college. Still, my husband is terrible at languages too--he's convinced that his professor gave him a passing grade at the end of his fourth attempt at Spanish class because she felt sorry for him--and even he was able to (mostly) memorize a short poem and recite it in front of the class for extra credit. I'm sure Michelle was capable of getting a simple phrase like "Au nom du Pere et du Saint Esprit" down pat enough to repeat it, even if she can't figure out the grammar of it or tell you which word means "Father."

Then we finally get back to the ritual, where Satan himself has just manifested in the form of a dark, constantly shifting, vaguely humanoid figure within the fire. I like that image; it's appropriately creepy and unsettling. So of course Michelle has to have him open his amorphous mouth and ruin everything.

He talks in rhyme.

Here are some examples of how Michelle thinks Satan--a fallen angel, a being with greater intelligence, wisdom and wit than any mere human could hope to have--might talk:

Out of the fire.
A man is born.
And he walks. 
Behind, the path is born.

It burns out the way.
It burns out the way.
Of destruction and decay.

And this:

You come from fire,
And to fire you return.
You come from fire,
The only way out is to burn.

I CANNOT TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY, MICHELLE REMEMBERS SATAN. You rhyme words with themselves, you use too many periods, you repeat yourself unnecessarily, your metaphors are confusing, and your sense of meter sucks. Now go sit on your skull throne in the bowels of Hell and think about what you've done.

Oh, but it gets worse. Michelle is forced to stand before the fire, and Satan wraps his long, sinuous tail around her neck, caressing her with its bifurcated point. Mmm. Kinky. Where do I sign up? I mean, uh...things sure look bad for our hero! Who will save her?

Jesus Christ will!

No, that's not a joke. Despite the terrifying predicament she's in, Michelle's mood suddenly shifts for the better:

"All of a's like morning, and it's not scary anymore. It's not bright light, but it takes the scary away. And there's a man and he's got white on. He's really far away. Then he starts coming closer. When he gets close, then I can't see the bad man that scares me anymore...I don't seem to need to say anything to this man in white...I started to cry. It seems like every time a tear came out, he understood. He patted my head and put his arm around my shoulder. He's being my friend. He didn't talk to me, but I knew he had a mother. He said that she could be my mother too."

Having made this promise, Jesus--and the text does make it pretty clear that this is Jesus--poofs off somewhere and leaves Michelle exactly where she was before, facing down the Prince of Darkness with a gang of murderous Satanists at her back.


Yeah, thanks for that, Jesus. I mean, it's very kind of you to send your mother to comfort a poor abused little girl and all, but...YOU WERE RIGHT THERE. And I'm pretty sure you outrank Satan. What were you late for that was so important* that you couldn't take two seconds to teleport the kid to a safe place?      

The chapter ends with Dr. Pazder sitting at home, being completely freaked out that Michelle is apparently having visions of Jesus and Mary and the Devil, but not quite for the reasons you'd think:

He believed that some people had seen the mother of God. He believed that some people had seen the Devil. But in Victoria? The Devil?

I think he's trying to convey that he's just startled that all this could be happening so close to home. But the way it's written, you could also infer that he thinks Victoria is such a boring little backwater town that not even Satan wants to visit. I'm sure the Victoria tourism board appreciates your glowing recommendation, sir.

*My guess? He's off to have a pint with those cops who couldn't be arsed to investigate a highly suspicious car crash in chapter 6.


  1. This is beautiful. I mean, the whole book sounds beautiful, what with the convenient plot holes and ominous benches and butchering of actual psychology, but this kind of takes the cake.

    1. Yeah, it really is quite amazing. And it has an awful tendency to top its own most horrid scenes with something even more horrid in every succeeding chapter.