Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oryx and Crake

Recently, while on the phone with Edie, and after we had run through all the latest gossip, we chatted about what we were reading -- she mostly reads non-fiction, and I mostly read fiction -- both our interest perhaps left over from teaching school, but maybe not. It may be that the smarter people read non-fiction.


Anyway, I mentioned to her that I had just started Oryx and Crake (the first word of which I couldn't quite get my tongue around), and she said, "I started that book, but I think I put it down."

Me: I think I know why -- the opening scene has a guy named Snowman, sleeping in a tree, scratching his bug bites, and remarking that he is more naked than Adam. He's awakened by even more naked people, children, and then adults, also naked who bring him a fish wrapped in a lotus leaf.

Edie: Must have been why I put it down.

Me: I might not make it myself.

I did make it though, and all I can tell you is that I am not sure why. I don't enjoy dystopian literature for pleasure reading --- because, well, it's depressing and too thought provoking.

Who needs that in retirement?

Also, dystopian literature makes me think of teaching school. LOL

Literature teachers always loved the kind of novel that made students think about the future -- heck, we were always happy if we just got them to think.

*giggles* --

Well, you know the kind of book -- everyone reads at least one while they are in high school, don't they?

Brave New World
The Time Machine


Animal Farm
Harrison Bergeron (actually a short story)

Those kinds of books that students look up at you and say, while they are reading, "This book is weird."

Yeah, weird. That's Oryx and Crake.

As I was reading it, I was thinking -- I could use this in class (whoops, don't have one anymore) or Wingate could use this in Philosophy (oops, she's retired too) --but totally a book that could be discussed for its ethical, moral, and societal implications.

Is it the book for reading in a big, Adirondack chair on the deck?

Uh, no -- cause then, you have to think about it.

I chose to read this novel because Emily, a friend of mine's daughter who just graduated from UNC -- [remember our Lady Ga Ga discussion?], had just read it for one of her last literature classes for her English major.

I told her, "Man, I thought I had read everything by Margaret Atwood."
Emily: Apparently not.

As always, Atwood presents a good story -- full of well -developed characters, detailed settings, thoughtful, witty and ironic dialogue; she is no slouch.

Oryx and Crake - a scientifically, genetically altered future ---

*scratches head*

-- outlandish but realistic, perhaps whacky, but enough of society's underlying current problems to ring true as a possible scenario for the future?

*scratches head*

Let me pause here to say if we ever get this advanced, count me out.

In fact, I'd like to be part of the first blast.

I'm also good with being Raptured.

So, the novel begins in the world of Snowman. He lives in an environment that is the result of genetic engineering gone for a bad train ride.

Snowman searches for goods in a holocaust wasteland, where mutant wild animals hunt him, insects bite him, and periodically, he journeys back to a compound where it all went wrong.

As Snowman sets off on his quest to re-stock his dwindling supply -- the narrative shifts to Snowman's youth, about twenty years before, a time spent in self-indulgent pleasures, lack of human interaction, and a world already falling apart from within, and his inopportune meeting of a mad genius named Crake.

If you like this kind of stuff, have at it -- it's a good read, but if not, you're not missing anything that you haven't read before --- that is ...if you've read one of the above novels, but if you haven't -- then maybe.......you should have your first taste.

Just sayin'.


  1. OK Harriett. I had to look up dystopian, banked that information for the future. My father required that I read Animal House though. He was in the John Birch Society for the final 30 years of his life. They didn't go in for people being naked. Finally, I will say that I saw a bumper sticker today that said Jesus Was a Socialist. Just sayin'.

  2. That's all good, but was there a damning secret? I bet that's how the dystopia came into being in the first place.

  3. LOL -- Laura, I know you mean Animal Farm, but you wrote Animal House -- I totally cracked up.

    Jennifer: No damning secret.... LOL -- it became a dystopia because all of American's young men were playing video games. .. and the women were watching Housewives of New Jersey.


  4. TOGA! TOGA!

    I'm afraid I don't know any quotes from Housewives of NJ, but if I did, I would insert them here.

  5. Harriett, did you ever read anything by Ann Rivers Siddons? I loved her early works and then stopped reading when she started putting out a book a year and the quality declined precipitously. I stopped reading her in the middle of a book where a scene included a naked man and a tree. I wonder if Siddons and Atwood are kindred spirits!

  6. Dystopias and post-apocalyptic literature and movies are my jam. I think I have such an obsession with The Good that it gives me hope when I read such stories. Even in a future of doom and gloom there's the glimmer of hope. E.G. I recently watched Book of Eli and was obsessed with it.

    You would be oh so proud of me. I've taken to reading literature again. Thank the heavens. I've wanted to for some time but have had trouble setting aside time to do so. I just recently finished "Cat's Cradle" by Vonnegut and Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye." The former was was written and had an interesting form, however the point of the story was logically absurd so I have a sort of love-hate relationship with it. The latter I found very interesting, and could have related to it even more had I read it in high school. I would have been so delighted with all the "phonies" I saw. The protagonist, Holden Caulfield, was devised so carefully that his voice took upon a realistic quality. I still hear him in my head commenting on things throughout the day. It's weird.

    I'm not well read so my tastes in the common "high school themes" are likely a reflection of my literary immaturity.

    Anyhow, I'm coming to appreciate your book review posts more because of it.

  7. I know these links are getting out of control but here's one poking fun of George Orwell!


  8. I love the cartoon.

    Ha. Ha. Ha.

    "This book is gonna rule."