Jennifer Astle

October 16, 2009

Book Review: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

coverWe all have that author.  That author who has shaped our perceptions of fiction (or non-fiction, perhaps), for whom we have spent many hours ignoring the outside world while we fully wrap ourselves in the pages, and allow ourselves to be swept away for two, four, eight, twelve hours at a time, and before we’ve discovered what we must, MUST know about the book, it’s dinner time, and a hungry partner gives a forlorn look like “you love that book more than me.”  For me, Margaret Atwood is that author.

When The Handmaid’s Tale was handed to me by a favorite teacher, I had no idea the journey I would be on, for Atwood’s has been the voice that followed me through the years, a decade really, feeding my overactive imagination, resurrecting the hurt child in me, and shaping me into a feminist long before any university professors got a hold of me.

I picked up The Year of the Flood a week ago, and set it down yesterday.  If I could somehow quit working, I could have made much shorter work of reading the book, but such is life.  I did however wait until my husband was out of town on business, so I could give the book the attention it truly deserves, hours of reading, uninterrupted. I settle into Atwood books much the same way one settles into a warm bath.  I slide into each page with care, slowly absorbing the imagery she spins with her pen, sometimes re-reading to ensure the tiniest of detail is unearthed.

The Year of the Flood took me by surprise.  For the first hundred or so pages, I suspected that it was either a prologue or an epilogue to Oryx and Crake, which I read a few years ago.  Had I read it more recently, and my short term memory not been so shoddy, I would have grasped this connection from the very first page.  Now I have more reading to do (or re-reading, rather).  Either way, I would have been wrong, since The Year of the Flood is happening concurrently with Oryx and Crake.  It takes a supremely talented author to tell the same story twice, without it being the same story.  Some (including myself) are even linking the two to The Handmaid’s Tale.

True, all three are dystopic, sociological works at their roots, each depicting a world radically different from the one we live in, but not so radical that it doesn’t seem to be a minute away.  My argument for the connectedness of the The Handmaid’s Tale to the Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood is subtle, and I acknowledge that there is a possibility that I might be grasping at straws.  “Glenn” is a character in the later two, while we are introduced to “Ofglen” as a minor character in The Handmaid’s Tale.  Is the woman, Ofglen of Glenn, the character who brings them all to where they find themselves after the flood?  Is The Handmaid’s Tale really taking place after nearly all of humanity has been destroyed by the flood?  Is this story that of humanity reorganizing itself after the events of Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood? Perhaps not, but I won’t restrict my imagination from running away with me.  That’s the beauty of great fiction.

October 5, 2009

November 17th: The day a lipstick-clad pig will fly.

Books Palin Cover

You can add one more book to the list of literature that Sarah Palin hasn’t read; Going Rogue by Lynn Vincent…oops, I mean Sarah Palin.  I mean, there really is nothing that demonstrates your ability to run a country more than having to hire someone to tell your life story.  It’s not that she couldn’t write it though, it was just that her hands were too busy with her rifle now that hunting season has started.

You’ll probably find the book right next to Glenn Beck’s Common Sense.  If you find it, you might want to let Beck know where common sense is, I’m sure he’ll be looking.   But I digress…

So what does Palin get for nothing?  Well, aside for the $150,000 designer wardrobe, and the  fame (infamy?….please let it be infamy?), she was advanced $7, 000, 000 for the “work” she did.  Any speculation as to why she quit as governor of Alaska is undoubtedly washed away, just like Palin’s problems, washed away in a sea of cold-hard cash.  I’m guessing (or hoping, at least) that her ghostwriter, Vincent, will receive about $1, 000 ,000 for, you know, writing the book.

Now, I don’t have an issue with ghost writing per se, if you look at my services offered as a freelancer, I do ghost write under strict confidentiality from time to time.  No one’s cutting me a $7M check, so one does what one must.  I do take issue with someone of Palin’s stature, who although having left office, still seems to claim to have answers, taking credit for a measly 400 page memoir.  Remember, the book is about her life.  If you can’t write 400 pages about your life at any point after the age of 30, I suggest you consider how boring your life is.  But I suppose Palin was too busy quitting her job and running off to China to write it, so she needed help.

So on November 17th, the literary world will lose just a touch of credibility by demonstrating that they are no more interested in literature than Nike or Walmart.  No one even seems to be pretending that Palin wrote the manuscript, except her publisher, HarperCollins, who insist she was  “hands-on at every stage“.  Someone should tell HarperCollins that touching the manuscript does not constitute a hands-on approach.  Although it would be a first for Palin (unless of course, you believe she actually read the Bible).  I can’t wait to see the press tour footage.

But I must concede a single point, Sarah Palin does prove one claim about America; anyone can make it big here.  You betcha!

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