Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #514 - Margaret Atwood - Dictatorship

Me and Margaret Atwood - May 2004 - Dogwood Arts Festival, Dowagiac, MI
Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #514 - Margaret Atwood - Dictatorship

Hi Mom,

Wednesday, I was telling my students about my favorite author -- Margaret Atwood -- and my favorite book by her -- The Handmaid's Tale, soon to be a Hulu series - Hey Mom #424 -- and I realized that I had never posted this photo on either of my blogs sharing my photo with the esteemed Ms. Atwood at the Dogwood Festival in 2004.

I was a total fan boy. Loving Atwood's work as I do, I told her that I had not read all her books because I don't want to run out. STUPID thing to say given all that it implies. I have read all but one, actually, except for the new stuff. Her production has hardly slowed. I have last year's novel, The Heart Goes Last, on my stack to read soon, and I am hoping to get this year's Hag-Seed as a Christmas gift. But I am keen to catch up and get the other older books read, notably Life Before Man, which was the one I have been saving for years.

She's an exceptional thinker, writer, and human being.

I am very blessed to have been able to meet her, and she is one of the main attendees of my Dinner Party idea if I were to actually afford such a thing. If I had millions, this is what I would do. I would beg, plead, and pay my favorite people to attend a dinner party with some other guests for the amazing conversations that would result. Sadly, after the events of earlier this year, one of the most important guests, DAVID BOWIE, would not be able to attend.

Anyway, I always read some Atwood to my students each semester. Also, I talk about how The Handmaid's Tale captivated me when I first found it. I was supposed to be reading Morrison's Tar Baby for a class. But instead I picked up The Handmaid's Tale, which the teacher had considered as one of our texts but dropped it. I could not put it down. I read The Handmaid's Tale until I finished. I walked around with it. I did not take my eyes off it until I finished. I was amazed by what I had read and experienced. Such an incredible book!! I still have not read Tar Baby, though I should as I love Toni Morrison, also.

Is our real life dystopia so far removed from that world of the The Handmaid's Tale? Is it about to get worse?

Margaret Atwood on our real-life dystopia: “What really worries me is creeping dictatorship”

Margaret Atwood on our real-life dystopia: “What really worries me is creeping dictatorship”

Salon spoke to the novelist about Stephen Harper, financial collapse, for-profit prisons and "The Heart Goes Last"

The down-on-their-luck protagonists of Margaret Atwood’s new novel “The Heart Goes Last” become fed up with living out of their car, so they move to a for-profit prison. It’s the near future, shortly after a new financial collapse, and Positron/Consilience — a gated community and a jail all in one — offers Charmaine and Stan the security of a comfortable middle-class existence, every other month; the inhabitants take turns being jailers living in houses and prisoners in cells.
This being a Margaret Atwood novel, things don’t work out quite the way poor Stan and Charmaine hope, but the author of the dystopias “The Handmaid’s Tale” and the Maddaddam trilogy (“Oryx and Crake,” “The Year of the Flood” and 2013’s “Maddaddam”) insists she has just tweaked what’s already happening in the world, including forced labor in prisons and the erosion of civil liberties — what she sees as the “creeping dictatorship” at home in Canada under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who’s up for election on Monday.
On the phone from a Brooklyn hotel, the ever-outspoken Atwood spoke with Salon about dystopias, robot sex and beer — in fiction and reality.
You’re on the road at the moment — I guess there are limits to the use of the LongPen.
I’ve hardly touched ground in Toronto for a month. The LongPen [a remote autograph device which Atwood invented in 2004, in part to relieve authors from heavy touring] has gone over into business and banking … There was a period when people were saying everything was going to be digital, but apparently it isn’t.

Another of your ventures, Noobroo, the fundraising beer inspired by the brewing in Maddaddam, is on shelves now in Ontario. Were you involved in the beer’s creative process?
Yeah, [the brewers, Beau’s] came over to our house with little bottles of powdered stuff, and then they had made a tea out of each of them, and then a blend. One of those ingredients tasted like old running shoes, but funnily enough, the blend that they made tasted better with the old running shoe thing than without it — it gave it a solidity.
 In the ‘70s when we [Atwood and her partner, Graeme Gibson] lived on a farm, we made all different kinds of wine; we made beer. I think the biggest failure was the ginger beer. We let it go a little too long, and then we took the top off; the entire contents shot out like fireworks!
Having written dystopias before, it seems you’ve outdone yourself with “The Heart Goes Last”: It features a dystopia within a dystopia.
It’s true — the outer dystopia is the thugs and living in your car; the inner dystopia is the Consilience/Positron project, so there are layers of utopianism and dystopianism, sort of like an Easter egg.
Despite the darkness, there’s a lot of humour in the book.
It is one of those kinds of literary constructions like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in which it’s funny for those watching but not for those to whom it’s actually happening, and indeed when you come to think of comedy itself, that is very often true.
We laugh at others’ misfortunes.
We do to a certain extent. If a person slips on a banana peel, it’s funny. If they slip on the banana peel and break their neck, then it isn’t.
In the Maddaddam books, a pandemic wipes out so much of humanity; you carefully set out the details, whereas in “The Heart Goes Last,” the reason for society’s collapse is rather vague.
I think we pretty much do know what it was — it’s the same thing that happened in 2008, so it’s a financial collapse rather than a physical [one]. People did end up on their front lawns and living in their cars, and that is apparently ongoing.
Do you see Positron/Consilience as a logical extension of current for-profit prisons?
The problem with for-profit prisons is that you need an endless supply of prisoners to make it profitable, so there’s no incentive to make it such that criminality is actually reduced. Ultimately you want more criminality; at the very least, you want to be able to define criminality in such a way that enough people get put in prison so you can make a profit out of them. There’s also a clause in the U.S. constitution that says you can’t use slave labor — except when convicted criminals are involved. So all of that is going on right now; [the book offers] just a little twist on it.
You write about people who have the power to change others’ lives by wiping out and changing data, which seems a relatively new development in literature —
Forgery is very old. Think of it as a new form of forgery. What you’re doing is altering perceived reality and substituting a false version of it, and that can have good uses. For instance, a lot of people wouldn’t have escaped Nazi Germany if there hadn’t been good forgers. So a world in which nothing like this could ever happen would be really claustrophobic. It’s like any human tool: there’s potential good uses and bad uses. It depends on who’s got the power and what you think of those people.


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 516 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1612.02 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

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