Tag Archives: Margaret Atwood

Bookishness Roundup

I wrote about whether or not Jewish people feel more anxious than others (they don’t, but don’t they?) (This mommyblog post does not refer to my dissertation, which argued that anxiety = contemporary culture and gimme a cookie. For my feelings.)

I recently enjoyed The Tiger’s Wife. Obreht’s magical realist novel uses the horror of ethnic violence to rip apart all the boundaries: between nations, ethnicities, and religions, between animal and human, between life and death. As editors are legit assigning stories about potential nuclear war not even a fucking year into this administration, it’s worth thinking about the senseless dehumanization of violent tribalism. Also, while I’m no expert in Balkan culture, the novel seemed to conspicuously, uncritically, surprisingly (given its investments) marginalize its Muslim characters.

I coulda written this about how the afterword in The Handmaid’s Tale (a bunch of historibros debating whether or not the account is valid) is the most important part of the book, by reinforcing the sexism that persisted before and after the Gilead period. Gendered knowledge practices delegitimate women’s experiences and silence their voices. But also: Gilead ended. Political eras end.

This story of Kathy Acker’s last year breaks my heart.

“Surrounded by friends, she began to stop breathing, intermittently. She asked Viegener to look for the list. What list?

The list to call the animals. Kathy, we didn’t make a list. It’s the list to call the animals back home.”

 

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Pigoons!!

Science! is building a way for us to install pig parts into ourselves. To be healthier.

Margaret Atwood already wrote this, obv.

On the other hand, maybe if human DNA is slowly and deliberately integrated with porcinity, we’d get a little bit f-ing smarter.

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Streetfight: Trumpocalypse Vs Gilead

I read The Handmaid’s Tale this week and anxiously calculated the chances of Atwood’s theocratic/woman-hating coup manifesting in the Donald Duck era.

Atwood’s dystopia sorts women into four classes: Wives (duh), Marthas (domestic servants), Handmaids (pregnancy surrogates for infertile Wives), and Unwomen (“gender traitors” and dissidents). But as Foucault taught us, exceptions to the (gender) rules better enforce the (gender) rules. Though she fears for her life under the brutal regime and is coerced into breaking more and more of its codes, Offred (“Of Fred”) finds herself wresting what pleasure she can out of a system that denies her autonomy, sociality, love. The book is about how much we will give up to stay human.

Thus follows a catalog of qualities our current government may or may not share with Atwood’s Gilead. Which totalitarian, repressive regime wins?

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Book Reviewlet: Maddaddam trilogy, Margaret Atwood

Need a break from the election? Let Margaret Atwood take you to an apocalyptic near-future where biotech companies have taken over all civic functions and disaffected young nerdlingtons plan to destroy all of Earth’s stupid, stupid people.  

Oryx and Crake, the Year of the Flood, and Maddaddam: the Maddaddam trilogy, Atwood’s foray into a surprisingly joyful eco-dystopianism.

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Feminist SF Throwdown: Atwood V. Butler

I finished Maddaddam in a plot-fueled daze. Then I immediately began rereading Octavia Butler’s “Xenogenesis Trilogy,” which is conveniently/frustratingly published in one volume entitled “Lilith’s Brood” with cover art that looks like it’s soft core porn.

The thing is, the trilogy is bona fide SF. Aliens, apocalypse, ethics, science. The “nature of humanity.”

If that publisher thought for half a second about how bullshit that cover is, they’d realize that if they pretended Octavia Butler were a dude, and put some flipping aliens and stars on the cover, and a big blobby spaceship that itself is alive, to more accurately represent the book’s actual content, maybe they’d DOUBLE THEIR CUSTOMERS.

DOUBLE. THE SALES. DOUBLE THEM.

Instead, they made the book look like it’s about a skinny black woman having sex.

Which, technically, happens in the trilogy. But only through a gender-neutral being who mediates between her and another’s nervous system in a mandatory threesome, and no one touches anyone. Etc. Science fiction sex. You know how we do.

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Book Reviewlets: Oryx and Crake & the Year of the Flood

Recipe for a Post-Apocalyptic Novel

Apocalyptic Technology: Pick one. Any current ones could wipe us out, given the right combo of corporate, economic, and political forces. Margaret Atwood picked genetic engineering.

Protagonist: Anti-hero, to make his (usually his) salvation of humankind more literary. Atwood made three, so far, across these two books: A boy whose mother’s depression and abandonment gave him a Complex, a young woman who moved from an eco cult into pseudo-elite sex work for totally logical reasons, and an older woman who survived both her parents’ death and the deprivations of a horrifying rapist and torturer (even reviews by Noted Feminists tend not to call this dude a rapist).

Smug Scientific Genius (optional): But how optional is it, really, since the whole premise of the genre is that scientific hubris will do us in? Sometimes (I’m thinking of Butler’s xenogenesis trilogy) this role is played by an alien. In these books, he’s a lonely hacker resolved to engineer humans back to the state of animals, reversing much of what evolution gave us in terms of frontal lobe capabilities etc. Because human emotions are too painful. That sounds like a cliche when I type it, but it didn’t feel like one when I read it.

Impediment to Human Survival: Conflict, right? Something has to happen after the world has ended, because we’re too convinced of our own power as a species to really think that apocalypse is the end. In these books, there’s Blanco, that rapist/torturer/murderer/subhuman, and a few of his co-rapists. There are pigs with human brain tissue. They hold grudges and mourn their dead. There isn’t much food left.

But the biggest impediment to human survival is the potential inability of humans to override decades of programming by the corporate technocracy into creatures of pure consumption.

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