28 July 2014

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 98

So what has everyone been reading lately? Thanks to last June's odd mix of Philippine literature and Plato's Dialogues, I've been feeling a little more critical of Philippine society and been adapting my reading accordingly. These days, I'm getting through more non-fiction than usual, the books which keep me the busiest being those which purport to answer the question "What's wrong with the world?"--though not including G.K. Chesterton's What's Wrong with the World. =P

I'm also feeling more tired than usual . . . not because of work, but because of life . . . and I almost decided to put off having another Book Club pick until September . . . before I realised that there happens to be a popular genre I do want to read with others right now, if you all are willing, too. That is, if Dystopian Fiction sounds good to you and you don't mind that my deadline for finishing the readalong is 30 September, please help me to choose from among the following two books by a critically acclaimed author . . .

vs.
The Handmaid's Tale vs. Oryx and Crake

Any Margaret Atwood fans in the house? I admit that I've never read anything by her (outside of casual browsing) and that I've stayed away from her stuff mostly out of habit. You see, back in uni, I had this "frenemy" who thought that Atwood was the bees' knees and kept encouraging me to read her novels. But I had already taken a bunch of recommendations from the "frenemy"--books and movies alike--only to have her mock the stuff that I suggested to her . . . and I'm sad to say that the pleasure of watching her sputter impotently every time I said that I was putting Atwood off again for some "lesser" writer totally outweighed anything that Atwood herself could have given me.

Since then, however, I have managed to forgive and to regret: that is, to forgive the "frenemy" and to regret that I've put off reading Atwood for so long. While I'm not crazy about feminist writing, I'm even less crazy about living in a literary ghetto. Bring on the heresies ideas! ;-P

The Handmaid's Tale is probably Atwood's most famous novel and arguably already part of the Dystopian Fiction canon. I got to see a few disturbing scenes from the movie adaptation as a child, and it's thanks to one gory one in particular that I had my first experience of reading the book of Deuteronomy. (LOL!) Now, this may really shock you, but I'm kind of religious. And very traditional. No novel will ever get me to drop my beliefs, but I'm intrigued that every description of The Handmaid's Tale that I've read suggests that it was tailored precisely to challenge them.

Oryx and Crake was one of the "optional" novels in a Dystopian Fiction paper I took in uni--and I confess that I first thought it made the list only because of the School of English's not-so-secret quota for women writers. =P But good books are good books, no matter how they get tossed in our path, and I must admit that the theme of multinational corporations taking over the world and bungling the job taps into one of my top dystopian nightmares. I will have heaps to say about this novel, too!

You have a week to vote for the Atwood novel that you think would be the best "Two or Three" Book Club pick! Remember that voting doesn't obligate you to participate actively in the readalong. This is just one of those times when I like leaving the final choice to something other than my own fancies. Besides, taking a poll is more fun than flipping a coin! Don't you agree? =)

Image Sources: a) The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, b) Oryx and Crake by Atwood

14 comments:

Sullivan McPig said...

Oryx and Crake.
I will stalk the blog to see what you think of it. I myself will concentrate on my ginormous pile of books and not add this one to it.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I really should be working through my own pile instead of adding a new book to it, but I'm going where the wind is blowing. =P

Thanks for voting, Sully! =)

Brandon said...

I vote for Oryx and Crake, and might read along if I can find a cheap copy.

I've read The Handmaid's Tale, a long time ago, and found it so very disappointing both as story and as social critique that it has prevented me from reading anything else by her. I was reading a lot of utopia and dystopia novels at the time, including some feminist ones, and it was quite literally the one that I thought the worst. But perhaps it is time to dip the toe back into the water.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Thanks for the feedback, Brandon! (If my old "frenemy" could read your impression of it, her head would explode. LOL!)

The other novel by a woman which was recommended by my professor was Mara and Dann by Doris Lessing. Was that one of those that you read at the time?

Brandon said...

It's been a while, but I don't think I did read that one. Looking at some of the plot summaries, it actually looks like it might be an interesting story.

Sheila said...

Ooh, tough. I love both as you know. But I think I'd have to go with Oryx and Crake. Handmaid's Tale was sort of a one-note story .... it was emphasizing and discussing one single idea. A good one, in my opinion -- the perversion of religion to put it in opposition to plain wholesome things (which as we all know true religion never is) -- but still, only one. Oryx and Crake is about a LOT of things. At first I thought she was criticizing libertarianism (talk about pushing my buttons, Atwood!) but she really isn't. It's a lot more complex than that -- materialism, over-reliance on technology, etc., are to blame for a lot of the issues, but at the same time those issues aren't actually cured by a wholesale rejection of technology either. In a way, she warns us that there may be no solution.

I *think* you'd like it. For a supposedy "feminist" novel, though, it has surprisingly few women. The women's stories (through the same time period) are in the next book.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I was hoping you'd weigh in before Monday, Sheila, but I would have delayed the next "meeting" if you hadn't, anyway. =)

Even other Margaret Atwood fans whom I've asked say they'd pick Oryx and Crake over The Handmaid's Tale. Whether or not I'll "like" it, I'm sure it will be an interesting experience. =)

DMS said...

If you haven't picked already I would say The Handmaid's Tale. I have read it multiple times- and there is even a movie to compare the book too. :) I can see from the comments that some others haven't liked it- but I enjoyed it and so did my friend's book club members. Of course- I haven't read the other book...
~Jess

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Thanks, Jess! Voting will remain open during the weekend, so there might still be an upset. Ooooh! ;-)

Sheila said...

I have liked everything of hers I've read, except the short stories, but I'd have to say my *top* favorite might have been The Robber Bride, which set in the real world. And after that, The Year of the Flood. MaddAddam seemed a little .... like she had to wrap up the trilogy with *some*thing, and couldn't think of anything better.

Whatever wins, I am excited to have you do something I've read!

Belfry Bat said...

My Mum has read all of these, though I don't remember enough of any to have opinions; I can't even decide whether a stand-alone or one-in-a-series would be more interesting.

I hope you don't mind my dropping in to say absolutely nothing? Happy Sunday, anyways!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Sheila -- Your description of MaddAddam makes it sound a little like Mockingjay. (I don't know how you felt about the conclusion of The Hunger Games, but most people, including myself, think it was a let down after the build up.)

Bat -- It would be better if you dropped in to say something. =P

I'm reading this series book as a stand-alone, so I'm hoping that it doesn't end on too much of a cliffhanger.

Sheila said...

Um ... it totally ends on a cliffhanger. Sorry. ;) If you don't want to read the next book, I'll tell you how that particular crisis gets resolved, if you want.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Thanks! I'll definitely be asking. Or if I'm really impressed with the book, I might keep reading the rest of the trilogy! ;-)