"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 104
It turns out that I shouldn't have been so worried about running out of time. The last three chapters are so short that writing about them may take less time than reading them! =P We've all been wondering how Jimmy turned into Snowman; now we know. But does solving the mystery make us feel any better?
I don't have much time, but I will try to set down what I believe to be the explanation for the recent
extraordinary eventscatastrophe. I have gone through the computer of the man known here as Crake. He left it turned on--deliberately, I believe--and I am able to report that the JUVE virus was made here in the Paradice dome by splicers hand-selected by Crake and subsequently eliminated, and was then encysted in the BlyssPlus product. There was a time-lapse factor built in to allow for wide distribution: the first batch of virus did not become active until all selected territories had been seeded, and the outbreak thus took the form of a series of rapidly overlapping waves. For the success of the plan, time was of the essence. Social disruption was maximised, and development of a vaccine effectively prevented. Crake himself had developed a vaccine concurrently with the virus, but he had destroyed it prior to his assisted suicidedeath.
Although various members of the BlyssPluss project contributed to JUVE on a piecework basis, it is my belief that none, with the exception of Crake, was cognisant of what that effect would be. As for Crake's motives, I can only speculate. Perhaps . . .
After we read Jimmy's last message, he effectively destroys it--and we read, "It is the fate of these words to be eaten by beetles." At first I thought that was part of his dramatic internal monologue. Then I realised that it could also be Margaret Atwood's omniscient third person perspective. Both work, but the latter is infinitely sadder. When the author of your world gives up on you, then all you have is despair. At least the author of the Crakers' world was more beneficent than that, even if he was also a psychopathic loon.
("Bubble" to "Footprint")
Crake is such an INTP, isn't he? (That's the Myers-Briggs supervillain type, in case you didn't know. LOL!) But what sets him apart from other supervillains is that he doesn't stick around to see the fruits of his labour: he's so sure that they will be what he has envisioned. And so logical is he that after he accepted the premise that all evil must be eradicated forever, even at the expense of every last human being on the planet, he committed suicide himself. Or so Jimmy thinks. And we have no reason to think otherwise at this point.
But it seems that the joke is on Crake. If he had known that his painstakingly engineered Crakers were capable of developing a sense of the transcendent and a desire to express it, he would have spent more time tinkering on them.
"Why would they hurt us?" asked Sojourner Truth.
"They might hurt you by mistake," said Snowman. "As the ground hurts you when you fall on it."
"But it is not the ground's wish to hurt us."
"Oryx has told us that the ground is our friend."
"It grows our food for us."
"Yes," said Snowman. "But Crake made the ground hard. Otherwise we would not be able to walk on it."
LOL--but how I love that passage! Jimmy may cringe at the "illogic" of his myth weaving, but I think he shows great storytelling skill. =) He turns Oryx and Crake into a perfect pair of co-creators. Crake created the people; Oryx created the animals. Crake made the world useful; Oryx made it friendlier. Father Sky; Mother Earth. I'd say that it's enough to make the real Crake have a seizure in his grave, but we know that he doesn't have a proper grave. (Granted, that doesn't rule out a figurative seizure.)
Then again, perhaps their creator wouldn't mind too much. He doesn't seem to have demonised religion. (Heck, he doesn't seem to have noticed religion's existence.) For him, the essential thing to control was the human sex drive. And perhaps even Crakers with the intellectual potential to convert to Christianity will still always perform the "blue" mating ritual . . . or need drugs to overcome it.
On the other hand, there was something unrelated to sex that Crake saw as a red flag . . .
Watch out for art, Crake used to say. As soon as they start doing art, we're in trouble. Symbolic thinking of any kind would signal downfall, in Crake's view. Next they'd be inventing idols, and funerals, and grave goods, and the afterlife, and sin, and Linear B, and kings, and then slavery and war. Snowman longs to question them--who first had the idea of making a reasonable facsimile of him, of Snowman, out of a jar lid and a mop? But that will have to wait.
Crake was right, of course. Symbolic thinking is the beginning of the end of his vision--just as literal thinking is the beginning of the end of something else. And this is where Oryx and Crake overlaps with another book that I've been reading this month: Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver. The above passage from Atwood reminded me of the following one from Weaver . . .
That culture is sentiment refined and measured by intellect becomes clear as we turn our attention to a kind of barbarism appearing in our midst and carrying unmistakable power to disintegrate. This threat is best described as the desire of immediacy, for its aim is to dissolve the formal aspects of everything and to get at the supposititious reality behind them. It is characteristic of the barbarian, whether he appears in a precultural stage or emerges from below into the waning day of a civilization, to insist upon seeing a thing "as it is."
To use a concrete example, it's a form of barbarism to dismiss formal customs like sitting down to eat at table, plating food nicely, and serving something sweet at the end, just because they aren't necessary to "eating as it is." Microwaveable TV dinners are bad enough for allowing us "to redesign" meal time; but Crake takes the rejection of symbolic thinking to a new extreme when he redesigns the Crakers' digestive systems so that they eat their own waste and dismisses Jimmy's disgust as a mere aesthetic objection. Hey, Jimmy, if it's any consolation, Weaver totally had your back in 1948.
Forms and conventions are the ladder of ascent. And hence the speechlessness of the man of culture when he beholds the barbarian tearing aside some veil which is half adornment, half concealment. He understands what is being done, but he cannot convey the understanding because he cannot convey the idea of sacrilege.
But I guess Weaver wasn't artsy enough for the Martha Graham Academy library. =P
So, anyway, whom can we thank for the effigy of Snowman and the religious chanting? The only Craker who stands out to me at this point is the one called Abraham Lincoln, whom Snowman noticed turning into a leader in an earlier chapter. But I'm also betting that there's a more artistic Craker whom Snowman hasn't noticed yet. Of course, if we really want to know for sure, we'll have to keep reading . . . and I'm afraid that I won't be.
This is probably the oddest "Two or Three" Book Club choice there will ever be. Normally, when I suggest a series, I commit to reading or listening to more than one--and maybe I would have snapped up the second book in the MaddAddam trilogy, The Year of the Flood, if I had only started this one earlier and weren't staring October in eyes right now. And if I weren't
Thanks to Sheila, LTG, Brandon, Jess, and Bat for commenting along all September! Here are our last discussion questions, to carry us into October before the next "Two or Three" Book Club pick is chosen.
What are your thoughts on Chapters 13 to 15?
1. How decisive a force in history would you say the human sex drive has been?
2. In Jimmy's place, would you have revealed to the Crakers the truth about their origins?
3. Would you also have destroyed the note . . . or would you have rewritten it and found a better place to leave it?
4. What do you think of the idea that barbarism is the insistence on seeing a thing "as it is"?
Image Source: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood