Monday, January 11, 2010

Book 13: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Depression goes on and off inside of me with a thud, as if some giant switch had been inadvertently thrown, as if I'd stepped through a waterfall of crude oil, leaving me coated in foreign harm, appreciably heavier than the moment before.

When this happens beware. You will not measure up to my standards. Your choices will be indefensible. I will have no patience with you. I will make you wrong.

Only later will I be able to see how much of this is projection, how you merely camouflaged the mirror I was trying to grapple with, how you stood in for my reflection. Only later will I be able to judge fairly. Only later will I be sorry.

Once that switch goes off I revert to some animal state, truly dangerous because it actually uses intelligence and cunning, not brute force. Oh, I'll resort to brute force if I have to but I'll first use what seems to be logic against you. You'll wonder what happened. How such a nice guy could shift so totally, so swiftly.

I'll apologize once I've got my wits about me again. But I'm not sure the damage can be undone. Would you trust a rabid dog that had finally taken its medicine?

Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' is a depressing book. I've read many of her other books and at one point liked her enough to buy new books as she published them. This has fallen by the wayside. This was the first book of hers I'd read.

It had been assigned as part of my course load for a class I was taking within my English major at URI.

My sense of apocalypse hadn't been finely tuned yet, resting in angry teen punk rock anthems raging against corporations, which mostly meant they'd been hassled by the local convenience store owner who didn't want them skateboarding in the parking lot. So when Margaret Atwood walloped me with a United States of America in which women were systematically denied their rights, citizenship and even basic identity outside of their reproductive capability, I was taken completely by surprise.

I remember being keenly unsettled by this book. It scared me. I hadn't read or witnessed much propaganda preaching against the modern political machine so I was really quite taken aback. The world isn't fair? Things don't work out? There is no man behind the curtain? Malevolence is the main force behind our world?

Now these things seem old hat to me. Last night for some reason my internal switch was thrown and I walked through that sheet of oil. I can't breathe. I have no articulation. Nothing is fair.

What is truly disturbing is that there is no opposite process, no psychic facility where I can go to get a good scrub, no mental spa designed to lighten my load and recharge my batteries. Or, maybe there is and I'm just too depressed to find it.

The only slight difference these days is that I can now HEAR the thud of the switch being thrown, I acutely FEEL the scum of the oil that sheaths me. Which may be the headlight of a train but at least it is a light in my tunnel.

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