And I I embark with #thePlan v.2017 and I find that I have had less trouble reading the Enlightenment and Education segments, because they are easily defined. As far as Entertainment, well, let’s say George R.R. Martin is getting a lot of love from me.
On to Enlightenment – this month’s effort was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Dear Margaret: Thanks for the sleepless night. I sat down to read this book and I did not get up until the book ended.(Notice, for later reference, that I say the book ended, not that I finished with the story). The tale is told by Offred and it intermingles information about a violent coup that wipes out the American government, her life before becoming a handmaid, and her time as a handmaid.
Now, if you think handmaid means brushing some lady’s hair and picking up her clothes, think again, but it just isn’t so. Offred is assigned to a husband and wife in order to produce children, which they cannot. She must wear a uniform and conform to strict rules in order to be a fit host for the potential child. (This is particularly relevant to me today, as one of my state legislators actually said women were hosts for unborn children and we must certainly have them all – I guess he read this book too. Or he’s an asshole. Take you pick.) And there are not just handmaids, who wear red. There are Marthas who serve as servants (they wear a really drab green). Important men – Commanders. Their wives (dressed in blue) have worked out an elaborate scheme to feel necessary in the order.
So Offred goes from a somewhat normal life, in which she has a husband and child to a mad dash to try to get out of the county. The authorities take her child and she does not know what has happened to either her husband or her child. Someone ratted them out. This society is full of bitches that rat people out.
So, she goes to become a handmaid. She goes through the training and placement. While is an eye-opening method of training, the training is nothing to actually being the handmaid – waiting on call for the Commander and the weird ritual of conception. It seems as if these rules are inflexible – but rules are made to be broken. And Offred breaks them. And her commander breaks them. And her friend breaks them. And so on.
Just as a side note, I did not notice a single pet in this work. Childless, petless people. No wonder they are rats.
The tale is a fascinating and disjointed narrative into the depths of the human condition and Offred jumps around, as one thing reminds her of another. And she wonders – always – what happened to those in her life before she was a handmaid. There are no answers. There will never be answers, but who blames a woman for wondering what happened to her child and making up alternate stories about the fate of her beloved spouse? Oh, yeah, they had a cat too. Once.
So Offred talked to me all night and I listened – fascinated, appalled, confused, and so very sad. There was no way of shutting her up – until I reached the end of the book and she stopped talking.
I don’t know what happened to her in the end. It is only fitting. Praise be.
On the Educational front, I read Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last. I read it for work book club. It’s a new thing.
The author takes the stance that humans have not evolved that much and operate primarily on manipulation of neurotransmitters. Psychologists call this behavior modification. It’s not a bad book – as leadership books go, it has more points than many I’ve read. I feel as if I could use some of the techniques to my advantage and that’s enough for me in this category.
Dear George R.R. Martin, I am back to A Clash of Kings (Book #2)
Question, George – Bran the Shipbuilder sailed across the narrow sea about a bazillion years ago and never came back. What would actually happen if he landed in Essos and made a life there? Does that explain Varys? Yes, I have had time to construct far left theories about everything. I see plots where there could simply be stories. I am obsessed. I have always been fond of character driven works and this is the biggest and grandest spectacle of character (and the lack thereof) that I have every chosen as a drowning pool.
Next time, I’ll try to read something from #thePlan. At the moment, I am busy pretending I am Brienne of Tarth and I have some control over my destiny (which no one else I read this month does, so does that make me one-up on them?
Nevertheless, The Handmaid’s Tale. Mind. Blown. Good pick.
The Handmaid’s Tale: 10/10. I don’t stay up all night to read unless the book in completely absorbing.
Leaders Eat Last: 7/10. It has its merits but I am wary about the “Circle of Safety.” It just sounds hokey.
A Clash of Kings: 9/10. It tales at least 3 readings to figure out characters and potential side trips in Westeros and Essos.