February 23, 2010

Literary Pick (*)

The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)

I guess Margaret doesn't believe in quotation marks. I don't think I've ever come across a novel yet in which there's no distinction between the narrator and the character, and It took me quite a while to get use to it. I had to go back and re-read sentences again, which doesn't lend itself to a relaxing reading experience. It slowed me down quite a bit.

First 100 pages:
Really annoying. ..why?, well because I felt like a juicy bone was being waved in front of my face. Like when someone asks you, "guess which celebrity died today?" and you ask, "who?" and they say, "well why don't you guess?" and you answer "I don't know, I give up, just tell me", and this keeps going back and forth, back and forth, and finally you just want to say, "forget it, it's not worth it" and walk away. That's how I felt reading this book. Like Margaret was being  childish about withholding the plot information because it gave her literary power and control over the reader and keeps them hostage.
Then I couldn't ignore this overwhelming feeling that the philosophy of this book was going to be something that didn't sit well with me. However, I slowly realized it was just a typical novel, with no outstanding profundity.
One of the reasons I despise contemporary literature, and basically stopped reading it years ago is because contemporary writers almost always, almost 100% of the time, revert to the all-essential shock value elements, what I like to call the "cheap grabber". In the back cover of "The Handmaids Tale", it even says: "Atwood takes many trends which exist today and stretches them to their logical and chilling....blah, blahhhhhh..." And let me just state that I noticed that review by Newsweek long after I had already started reading the book. It was probably noticed during one of those moments of frustration where I flipped the book around with one hand wondering "wtf?".
I'll give you a perfect example of how she used this "trend".
I am reading about women in habits, who seem to be pious and obedient, living in the Republic of Gilead. They walk with their heads bowed down, two by two whispering words to each other, such as "blessed be", "may the Lord Open" and "I receive with joy".
And this goes on say, for about 100 pages or so. Then suddenly out of the blue you read, "He's fucking me".
Now it's not that I don't like the word "fuck". In fact I LOVE the word "fuck". Not as in "I like to fuck", but as in, "Fuck, my food is burning", or "Fuck, I got my period on the mattress again".  So it's not like I'm a "fuck" prude, cause I'm not. It's just that it didn't seem to fit in with the theme of the book and it was cheaply thrown in for shock value to keep up with the "trend". Now can anyone sit there and tell me Atwood couldn't have better and more eloquently described that scene? 

Halfway through the book, I stopped and assessed what I had gotten from it so far.. still nothing.

It certainly had moments of intrigue, I give it that much. Of course it had to have had intrigue because it's a pretty popular book.
But Atwood's writing from the beginning is so flawed. It's as if it went straight from her hands to publishing without it being proof-read or edited.
I'm not a writer, but I am a reader, and I think I'm certainly capable of recognizing whether a book flows or not, and this book doesn't flow. And what pisses me off the very most is that Margaret Atwood is presently suppose to represent one of Canada's top authors. Just because a book sells a lot doesn't mean squat. She's just a trend, a fad.
It's like when The Philadelphia Inquirer stated that "PUSH a novel" might find a place in the African American Literary canon. I was like, WHAT!!?? are you kidding me? that shit? no. no..
Look at The Davinchi Code. Yes, I enjoyed the novel a lot, but I also recognize that Dan Brown probably won't be included as part of the American literary canon in 100 years either.
Margaret Atwood, in my humble opinion is not such a great writer. I've seen reviewers on goodreads who are better at writing than her.
The only decent thing about this novel was the story-line, and even that seemed like Daniel Steel fluff. OH OH!! and the other thing that got me was that the entire female democracy has fallen apart and all Of-Fred could think of was her need to have sexual intimacy with a man. Not to mention that she never seemed appropriately upset about the fact that her husband and daughter have been taken from her.
Has Maragaret Atwood ever seen the Movie Red Dawn, with Patrick Swayze? The wolverines? c'mon, man..

The other major problem with this novel is that there were so many questions unanswered. What political reason behind the president day massacre? Who were these people? why were women targeted? Why didn't women (and their men) fight back? Those are questions I'm asking just to humor the book. At this point, the book was so leaky that It's not even worth asking questions about, because there are no answers. I thought this book was going to have psychological depth, but to me it was just like reading a cheap novel. I can go on and on about other things that make this not a great novel, but it's not even worth it.

I'm extremely disappointed.. I thought this was going to be one of the good ones, but I should've known.


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