The wacky factor

I was in the middle of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam last week when I went to see the Douglas Coupland exhibit at the art gallery. Now, I know that Margaret Atwood and Douglas Coupland are rather different. You would never mistake the work of one for that of the other. But I couldn’t help but notice a few similarities.

They are both students of the Canadian identity.

The are both experts at digging into the scary parts of our present and taking those parts just one step further. Not a hundred steps further, into Isaac Asimov territory, but one step — which is a much more chilling thing.

They were both recognized early in their careers for their mix of insight and general wackiness. And, thus encouraged, both have continued to grow more cutting and more quirky.

If you combine these three things, what do they say about us, the Canadian readership/audience that has given these two such iconic status? Obviously, we value smarts. We’re willing to gaze (okay, at least glance) into the dark side. But we also have a well-honed appreciation for the wacky.

Would you agree?

In summary…

I’ve been reading (and loving) MaddAddam.

I’ve been a huge Margaret Atwood fan ever since high school, when my friend Suzanne lent me her big sister’s copy of The Handmaid’s Tale. If Margaret Atwood ever turned up at my door and said, “Tanya, I’ve decided we need to run away and start a commune together, before civilization disintegrates around us,” well… Min might be cooking his own dinners that week.

maddaddam

This particular trilogy is a winning combination of twisted and incisive. But my favourite thing about the third book, MaddAddam, is not even the story. It’s the summaries, in the opening pages, of the first two books in the series.

As a writer, no matter what your status or calibre, you create synopses of your books. You write them for grant applications or project pitches. You write them for media interviews. You even write them for yourself, when you forget where the heck your story’s supposed to be going.

Most of us work very hard to make our synopses perfect. We want them highly intelligent, imbued with subtle humour. We want our characters to seem real and our plots irresistible.

But apparently if you’re Margaret Atwood, you’re allowed to write synopses that sound like big servings of cray cray. Let me give you a small example, from the summary for Oryx and Crake:

The Crakers mate seasonally, when parts of them turn blue. Crake tried to rid them of symbolic thinking and music, but they have an eerie singing style all their own and have developed a religion, with Crake as their creator, Oryx as mistress of the animals, and Snowman as their reluctant prophet. It is he who has led them out of the high-tech Paradice dome where they were made to their present home beside the ocean.

Now, can you IMAGINE if I submitted a synopsis like this? The publisher would send me a prescription for antipsychotics instead of a cheque.

But that’s because I am not Margaret Atwood.

If you haven’t yet done so, you should go out immediately and buy all three titles. They’re hilariously brilliant. You will never smile so often while reading about the end of the world.

Light reading

Today, I send you away to read other people’s writing. Specifically, Margaret Atwood’s thoughts on libararies (thanks to Adrienne Mason for the link.)

That’s short, so you should still have time to read Bill McKibben‘s thoughts on why we should make links between extreme weather events and climate change. He’s the 350.org guy, and he’s much better at sarcasm than I am.