I really want to punt my essay and not do any work, so here’s Margaret Atwood’s “Rape Fantasies”. Despite the title, I would not actually put any trigger warnings on this one.
Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors ever. She has a really nuanced view on feminism that definitely helped my own understanding and it comes across really well in The Handmaid’s Taleand The Penelopiad, which I also heartily recommend. The Handmaid’s Tale in particular is something I relaly enjoy because I do really like dystopian novels. However, like Brave New World, I was too young when I read it though, and Cesium informs me that I might recognize some of the locations now in the book, which is also pretty exciting.
I’m actually not entirely sure why I like dystopian novels. I know how I first got interested in them – I was at Walmart in fifth grade and spotted a cartoon version of Animal Farm in the bargain bin (see here, but the cover looked like this) and we got it for cheap and watched it at home. Afterwards, my parents explained how it was an allegory for actual communism and Stalin and Trotsky. I really got hooked on dystopian novels and quickly devoured George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World (although somehow stopped before Ray Bradbury’sFarhenheit 451, which I didn’t get around to reading until 2 years ago. This is why I was way way way too young to really fully understand Brave New World‘s orgy porgy or Margaret Atwood’s discussion of sexual subjugation, although I could definitely understand the points they were trying to make.
Also amusingly, this pdf scan of a textbook contains other things that I’ve read, namely Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case” and Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants“. Actually come to think of it, this straight up might just be the same textbook that we used in my senior English class where we read those 2 stories.
(EDIT: after some googling, I have found out this is not the case. The book we used was this one which does not have “Rape Fantasies” in there. Huh, actually looking back on the list of stories in there, there’s a lot of overlap between those stories and the anthologies we used in other classes, even at the same school. We never read through an anthology completely, but what I would often do in class (since I’m a fast reader and my classmates didn’t usually have anything interesting to offer) would be to flip around in the anthology book and read things that were more interesting. Compare the violence of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” with the oppression in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron“. Why focus on James Joyce’s “Araby” with its dull gray Dublin streets when you could feel the rhythm of Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” instead?
(ASIDE: I read “Girl” and “Araby” for the first time in freshman year English (a different anthology was used). We later read “Girl” as a class in senior year English (but not “Araby” even though it was in our anthology apparently, although we did repeat the same freshman-senior reading of John Updike’s “A&P“). It definitely suffered from the same problem of “things are more fun to read by yourself than being forced to analyze something”. (This problem wasn’t helped at all by my really white prof asking the black people of how they felt about it (although he did this more with Toni Morrison’s Belovedand less with this story). He was definitely one of those “liberal back in the 60s, but crotchety now” old white guys.) The only work that didn’t suffer from that property was T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” which I really hated before class analysis and now really really love after classroom analysis. It was kind of amazing to have a sudden realization in the middle of class discussion when everything clicked together about this poem and then to be suddenly blown away by the writing (even though no one else in the class did, sadface))
This was how I further confirmed that I liked Margaret Atwood – I gradually read more and more of her stories from these illicit readings during class and soon, whenever I got a new anthology, I would look specifically for her name to see what other works she had. This was definitely the methodology that I used when I read “Rape Fantasies” for the first time. Maybe I should stop being lazy and actually get an anthology of her short story works, although it’s quite different to have an anthology and one concrete thing of a single author’s work. When I was at the Tidors over Thanksgiving last year, I raided their bookshelves and found a book of e.e. cummings poems. It was quite different to see the trajectory of a single mind – just 100 pages of e.e. cummings writing love stories and songs of celebration, suddenly dip down into philosophical musings only to soar back up again. It’s intimidating to read a book of poems through and just feel emotion and I’m not sure if it’s better or worse than seeing his mind in isolation as a comparison point between stogy old guys with their fixed meter and rhythms))
Long digression aside, those two short stories are not especially good in my opinion, but look! You have lots of hyperlinks now to follow of better stories instead :D. On a meta level, I’m not sure how my thinking lends itself to all of these asides. When I write these posts, I end up just talking about my feelings from one work of literature and then it balloons out into other works of literature and I go back and edit things while midway through writing and then oh look, we’re at a stupid long essay with 4 levels of parentheticals >_> something something “Life is the greatest intertextual experience” – James Rowan. This is a problem for actual emails, but we’re all friends here, right? 😀
This was a lot more fun than writing up my essay 🙂 I have a lot more posts planned out for litchin@, which I hopefully will have time to write up before the break is over, but probably won’t. Such is the lot of things.
Stay literary, my friends and please sign up for clam-books@ !
(Reply – Nov. 30, 2014, 12:32 PM)
Oh, huh. Apparently you can find the cartoon version of Animal Farm on Youtube here. I don’t remember the ending being so Disney though – I remember the ending being cut off right before the animals revolt, just like in the book, when you can’t tell the pigs from the humans.