[Work: The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, 1985]
The Once and Future America:

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and the Consequences of (American) Society Yielding to Fear

 

Margaret Atwood Sketch by M.R.P. - The Handmaid's Tale - America, tradition, conservatism, theocracy

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

Introduction:

One unfamiliar with the novel, or unfamiliar with Margaret Atwood, might be understandably mistaken about what sort of book lies behind the unassuming title The Handmaid’s Tale. The name conjures up images of Victorian romance and understated drama which could not be further from the reality: a brutal piece of mid-1980s dystopian fiction about life in a theocratic America.

A decade and a half before Atwood won the Booker prize for The Blind Assassin, the Canadian author was nominated for the award (and a host of others) for this mid-80s work of considerable power and brilliance. Anyone who prizes the introduction of more traditional ideals into a country’s governance ought to equip an open mind and give this chilling tale a read.

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[Work: The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, 1985]
The Once and Future America:

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and the Consequences of (American) Society Yielding to Fear

was last modified: October 18th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells, 1896]
Coping with Scientific Understanding:

Discoveries that can Forever Alter Worldviews in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau

 

Unlike the other most prominent early writer of science fiction, Jules Verne, who focused his fiction primarily on courageous adventure, scientific discovery, and multifaceted characters like Captain Nemo, H.G. Wells’ fiction often focused on dark themes, political allegory, and social commentary. For this reason, the most widely read of Wells’ fiction among modern audiences are those which allegorize situations or possibilities that seem most relevant today, such as The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Invisible Man.

But my favorite work by the man, and one of my favorite books overall, is one which is more often regarded for its potential in the horror genre than for its literary content: The Island of Dr. MoreauThe Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells. A number of films have presented The Island of Dr. Moreau as horrorThe Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells or actionThe Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells, and it even had a segment in the The Simpsons‘ thirteenth “Treehouse of Horrors” episode. The film adaptations (all quite loose) are almost universally regarded as terrible, or else are enjoyable primarily for their B-movie charm and missteps. But the book is a truly remarkable one, and tugs at anxieties that many of us will understand far too well.

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[Work: The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells, 1896]
Coping with Scientific Understanding:

Discoveries that can Forever Alter Worldviews in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau

was last modified: April 29th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Candide or Optimism, Voltaire, 1759]
The Unexpected Joy of Despair:

Comedy and Tragedy in Voltaire’s Candide

 

“Voltaire was the wittiest writer in an age of great wits, and Candide is his wittiest novel.” – John Butt

With a few notable exceptions toward the middle, this brief, influential work by Voltaire spends every chapter spinning a denser and denser web of horrors and misfortunes for its principal characters, and for everyone they meet. Wars break out, destroying lands, cities, and people; innocents are burned and lashed as heretics; lovers are repeatedly separated and brutally punished; and murders and disfigurements occur often and without warning.

Yet, through all of the horrors, I would be hard-pressed to name five books I’ve encountered and found funnier or more charming than Candide. It is rare when three pages pass in sequence without eliciting laughter. The novella is packed densely with stinging irony and sharp satire, directed almost entirely at philosophical idealists who posit that humans live in “the best of all possible worlds.”
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[Work: Candide or Optimism, Voltaire, 1759]
The Unexpected Joy of Despair:

Comedy and Tragedy in Voltaire’s Candide

was last modified: April 6th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski