I started reading The Handmaid’s Tale the other night. Finished the introduction and reached page 8 when the headline of Montana’s special election, a House candidate body-slamming and punching a Guardian reporter, uh, distracted me. Then he got elected and raised over $100,000 post assault. So much for all those anti-bullying campaigns. America! It’s survival of the most bloated out here. The Bloatest. Th well-bloated class. That’s a fun word. Bloated. It reminds me of jelly donuts.
We know. We’re all reading the same headlines. We’re rooting for the same sinkhole. Maybe we all have the same growing urge, but we’re patient. We’re not alone.
I’m reading Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot very very slowly. Take comfort in knowing we’re all no-see-ums on a beautiful blue speck. Early in the book Sagan writes:
On the scale of the worlds – to say nothing of stars or galaxies – humans are inconsequential, a thin film of life on an obscure and solitary lump of rock and metal.
Back on Earth, it’s super author Margaret Atwood to the rescue. For years, since reading and loving The MaddAddam Trilogy, I checked out The Handmaid’s Tale from the library only to return it unopened. –
-The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel and in my view those are no-funs. As Atwood says in her new introduction, written in February 2017, most are implausible. But now it’s been adapted into a show I’d like to see. Considering the headlines and bloateds, The Handmaid’s Tale seems like a sweet vacation. It’s fiction, right? Couldn’t happen for real.
In the intro, Atwood tells of writing the first draft while living in West Germany in 1984. The fear, paranoia and oppression of the time inevitably influenced her writing. When she realized she was writing speculative fiction she set some interesting rules for herself. Every element is taken from history. She invented no technology or laws or practices.
We readers have no buffer. We cannot assure or comfort ourselves with Oh this would never happen in real life. It can. It has. At some point in history everything in this book has happened. The approach is brilliant. Dark and sobering, but brilliant. When it gets too dark, I’ll read more Sagan. That’s my plan.
Again, I’m only on page 8. My boyfriend commandeered my copy for his commute. On his way home he was so engrossed he hurried to the wrong train and wound up in Williamsburg. This morning he was late to work because he missed his stop reading. The book is really good, I hear.
Have you read it? Am I the last one to the party?
Normally I let Raj steal a book if he wants because I have a stack of others, but I’m in the mood for this one. Our compromise is to share. He gets it for his commute and every other night. We haven’t switched off this way since reading the Harry Potter series.
I know The Handmaid’s Tale is going to be great. I don’t expect it to ease any anxieties and anger, but the appeal is similar to that of historical fiction focused on resistance. Perspective. We’re inside it and sometimes when you’re too close you lose perspective on the good things individuals are capable of. We stand in their way with actions of hope.
Remember to remember our fallen heroes this weekend.