23 Nov 2005

Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood

After being forced through Handmaid's Tale in highschool, I vowed: "No more Atwood."

But this was good. The greatest improvement over Handmaid is the lack of preaching. It's funny (as in humour), a fast read, conscious of the present, imaginative of the future.

The best though, was its ambiguity. Ie., what happened? Who loved whom? What happens after it ends? Who did what, exactly? Structurally, I have the impression that this book leaves multiple possibilities open at numerous points of the narrative. I feel like I could pick a spot in the middle and read a whole different book depending on how I interpreted the text.

In literature courses, we actively search for these points, and put great effort into uncovering ambiguity and non-intuitive possibilities, but the unique feature of Oryx and Crake is that these possibilities are unavoidable.

And yet... we never feel let down that the author is hiding something. No, rather, she seems to intentionally "paint herself into corners" where she is obviously no longer able to explain what is going on, and therefore we must do so.

So where Handmaid was patronising, this rough vision is pleasantly Socratic.