Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Atwood’

A Canadian master puts a modern twist on Shakespeare in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Heart Goes Last’

March 17, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 17, 2019

Margaret Atwood, the Canadian poet and novelist, is one of the most celebrated contemporary writers. Her popular 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, postulated a post-democratic United States controlled by fundamentalist Christians. The book, which Hulu adapted into a hit streaming video series, plumbed the souls of a certain strain of Reagan supporters and came away with a vision of a near-future America that no longer seems as preposterous as it once did. (See: Bush, George W.; and Trump, Donald.)

Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy explored future scenarios that were far wilder — as well as more dystopian and more apocalyptic — than that of The Handmaid’s Tale. As with the earlier book, the vision expressed in 2003’s Oryx and Crake and sequels, seems more relevant today than at the time of publication. Not only does corporate power, and its ability to quash individuality and independence, appear to be ascendant in the United States (thanks in no small part to federal judges appointed by Bush and Trump), scientists are slowly acquiring the genetic mastery needed to create the augmented, hybrid and altogether novel species that Atwood described in her MaddAddam sequence.

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Two women, trapped in different ways, navigate the end of the world in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Year of the Flood’

September 25, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 25, 2015

In 2004, the acclaimed Canadian author and poet Margaret Atwood published Oryx and Crake, the dour story of a love triangle. The narrative begins in a dystopian future North America and ends after a pandemic has wiped out most of civilization, or what passed for it. In 2009, Atwood’s The Year of the Flood came out. I started reading it in March and completed it, after several interruptions (and one boneheaded accident), in August.

The book turns out to be another science fictional outing and is, in fact, the middle leg of what Goodreads.com has dubbed the MaddAddam trilogy. Where Oryx and Crake, from what I recall, was told exclusively from the narrator’s point of view, the 2009 book is more ambitious: It alternates between two characters. Atwood also tacks between the past, in the same dystopian society depicted in Oryx and Crake, and the post-apocalyptic landscape inhabited by the previous book’s lonesome narrator. (Yes, there are a handful of human survivors — just why that is Atwood reveals in the course of time.)

One of the protagonists here is Toby, whose parents died while she was a college student (long before the plague), leaving her essentially alone and without resources. After some misadventures that will haunt her, Toby winds up becoming a teacher in a Christian sect of nature-loving hippies who call themselves the God’s Gardeners. There, one of her students is Ren, the book’s other protagonist, whose mother later takes her away from the sect and back to what the Gardeners call the External World.

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Some quick notes!

April 9, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 8, 2015

My computer’s been repaired. There’s a story in that, which I’ll get to later.

Also, the next few weeks are going to be a little hectic. Beginning tomorrow, I’ll be seeing about a dozen movies at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. After that, I’ve got a roughly weeklong trip coming up. Only following that will things begin to settle back to quote-unquote normal.

I’ve fallen behind a bit on my reviewing. The other week, I finished reading Frederick Reiken’s excellent Day for Night; in February, close readers may recall, I wrote about his earlier novel, The Lost Legends of New Jersey. And I’m in the middle of reading Margaret Atwood’s apocalyptic 2009 novel, The Year of the Flood. It’s well-written and compelling, but it’s also disturbing. That’s due to what happens to the book’s characters (and to its world at large) as well as to what Atwood is saying about how our species is treating planet Earth.

I’ll share my thoughts on both books at length at…well, at some point in the future. In the interim, I’m going to try to blog about most if not all of the documentaries I see at Full Frame, so brace for a bunch of film posts.

Prominent authors contribute original, mainly horror-tinged tales to ‘McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories’

September 13, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 13, 2014

McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories is a 2004 anthology edited by Michael Chabon with a notable bent toward horror-tinged tales of the supernatural. The book’s stories, all original, are penned by an impressive list of authors, but I found their quality to be a bit uneven.

Margaret Atwood contributes the first story, “Lusus Naturae,” narrated by a deformed young woman whose family fakes her death in order to mitigate their shame in her existence. (The title is a Latin phrase for “freak of nature.”) The tale is short, and its plot relatively unimaginative, but it generates sympathy for the shunned protagonist. Atwood also strikes an enjoyable sardonic note in the final paragraph.

“What You Do Not Know You Want,” by David Mitchell, is a mystery with supernatural elements. The narrator, a memorabilia dealer, is visiting Hawaii in order to locate the dagger his partner had acquired just before killing himself. The protagonist is disaffected — he’s engaged to be married but notably unenthusiastic about his fiancée. The story’s tone is naturalistic, but it ends with a disturbing otherworldly killing.

“Vivian Relf” is a curious short offering by Jonathan Lethem about a man who meets a woman a few times. Nothing happens between them, even though their lives seem to be intertwined in mysterious, indefinable ways.

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