Ever read so many articles where people are either praising or denigrating a book, and gotten exasperated and decided you will simply have to read it yourself? I have.
Not with Twilight, although I read the first one and a half because my sisters were so insistent…and not Fifty Shades of Grey, because a lot of the articles I read about it–whether positive or negative–mentioned the poor writing, and I believe my life is too short to waste on that… but I did decide I needed to read The Handmaiden’s Tale. Because when a television show is made, then people start to care about the book at least a little bit. And they care enough that my Facebook feed had been peppered with people sharing articles about how the book is super “relevant in Trump’s America”, or (in direct response to those articles) how people are being utterly ridiculous and the present is safer than any time that came before for women, blah blah blah…
So fine. I must read the book is I want to know one way or another, right? And…it’s been a good read so far. I’ll probably finish it up in a day or two. But really, it isn’t as traumatizing as any of the articles I read made it out to be. Maybe someone else would think that…especially if all they knew was what was printed in these articles. I get that. But…the main character genuinely doesn’t seem traumatized in the way these articles made her out to be. Not angry. Not depressed. Not horrified, really. And I don’t think that a lot of the people who are going to either be praising OR denouncing the book are the sort who will understand the more delicate horrors of isolation and detachment…boredom…monotony–the only factor of the book that is ridiculous or abominable to them is the part about sex, and they can’t get past that to see what is actually upsetting for all of the characters in the book (as far as I can tell).
It’s my opinion that the articles I’ve read on both sides have been misleading about this book, but I don’t regret reading it. Atwood is a good writer and good writing is always pleasant to read, even when the subject matter is grim.
…and on that note, if one wants to be upset about a book because it is both ridiculous and relevant to today, they should pick up Oryx and Crake instead. Same author. So much more disturbing.
And then…you know…other disturbing books, just for funsies.
– Plague Dogs (humans destroy animals)
– All Quiet on the Western Front (humans destroy humans)
– The Conspiracy Against The Human Race (humans experience consciousness of destruction)
Those are the most overall upsetting books in my collection. And I suppose that maybe The Handmaiden’s Tale falls somewhere between the destruction of human by human, and the general awareness of destruction as a thing at all…but…the story (so far) is told so methodically that it’s difficult to feel upset by reading it.
Not that this was the point of anything I’d read about it that motivated me to pick the book up. No. I can’t agree with either side still though. Because I do think it’s absurd to worry that this plot is what our current society is, in fact, running towards. But I also see that parts of it are relevant to us, but only because we are unhappy people in this country (and this world), and all books are modeled on an unhappy world with unhappy people in it. *shrugs*
I had other things to say today, about work and anxiety and doom metal and the weather (there were snowflakes today–snowflakes!), but this is all I really have time for atm.