“The Handmaid’s Tale” about being “Born Under a Bad Sky” in “The Merry Month of May” while “On the Trail of the Assassins.” (by Margaret Atwood (1985), James Jones (1970), Jeffrey St. Clair (2008) and Jim Garrison (1988).)
For those of you who can’t stand long book reviews, here are four short reviews:
“HandMaid’s Tale” by Margret Atwood – of course a Canadian – wrote this book about the aftermath of a violent fundamentalist Christian takeover of the United States. You are dumped into an unknown world of high-walled compounds, fear and segregation of groups. No one dances, no one plays, there is no joy allowed except in the worship of Almighty God. The ruling law is the fundamental oppression of women. It is told from the point of view of a Handmaid, a ‘breeder,’ Offred, a former modern woman now enslaved to bear sacred children. She is to be ritually impregnated by the Commander, who has a barren Wife, served by working-class Marthas, and guarded by violent Guardians. Children are the point of this society. And of course, there are still secret prostitutes, which the Commanders visit to get relief.
For every repressive society, there is an underground resistance, which Offred makes contact with, in her attempt to escape to Canada. Warning her of the fate awaiting those who defy the religious order, dead offenders are ritually hung for public viewing. Enjoy!
P.S. - The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopic book. Below, I did a review of “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, a post-apocalyptic book. This has now come out as a film with Viggo Mortenson. The film is not as good as the book, however repetitive that comment may seem, but it is still worth seeing at some point. The new film 2012, loosely based on a Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy, is also coming out soon. For a review of dystopic and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction, here is a long analysis by a professor on this very subject: Http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091102/deresiewicz.
"Born Under A Bad Sky," by Jeffrey St. Clair, rips the hood off of neo-liberal Democratic Party ‘environmentalism.’ The Republicans take their share of fire, of course, but the clear new information is about the coddling during the Clinton/Gore years of the worst anti-environmental corporate figures and companies, looking especially at the situation in the U.S. mountain West. St. Clair, an editor at Counter-Punch, uses these essays to focus on water theft, forest destruction, mining pollution, dam consequences, nuclear carelessness, oil drilling, air pollution levels in LA, mine safety, FBI treatment of environmental protesters, Cancer Alley along the Mississippi, the oppression of native and Latino rural populations and the destruction of endangered species.
St. Clair especially focuses on the ‘Big Green’ paper organizations complicity with all of this. Sainted figures like Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Bruce Babbitt, Dick Gephardt, Ralph Cavanaugh, John Kerry, Ken Lay, Mary Landreiu, Edward McGaffigan and sainted groups like the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Counsel, the World Wildlife Fund, the National Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Defense Fund are all pinned for their attacks on the environment in the name of market solutions and corporate giveaways. This is another hard book to read.
“In the Merry Month Of May," by James Jones, is the story of the massive May-June 1968 worker-student rebellion in France, as told by the middle-aged, middle-class editor of a literary magazine. Jones, evidently, was trying to compete with “The Sun Also Rises” by Hemingway. If so, this is a truly poor second. The blasé editor doesn’t take the events seriously at first, then treats them like tourism, and eventually blots them out by his overwhelming focus on the sexuality of a young black woman from America. Jones trivializes everything that happens to focus on the romantic quadrangle of one family – wife, father and son – with this woman, who also happens to be anti-political.
Nevertheless, Jones WAS in Paris at that time, and his eye-witness descriptions of clashes between the flics and the students in the West Bank, and the activities of the students at the Sorbonne are its chief benefit. The involvement of the working class is marginal to what Jones witnesses. The book’s events are treated like a light-weight diversion, until, of course, he has to kill off a central character to give it some weight.
“On the Trail of the Assassins,” by Jim Garrison, is the story of the Kennedy assassination investigation undertaken by New Orleans DA Jim Garrison. Garrison was the only one who treated the assassination like an actual criminal case, unlike the Dallas police or the FBI. Garrison was attacked for doing his duty by nearly every magazine and newspaper, the U.S. government, the CIA and every useless pundit in America. Which means he was on to something. Later this story was made into the film “JFK” by Oliver Stone. The books abounds with great facts about what a sorry white-wash the Warren Commission, the FBI and the later Congressional Inquiry made of the assassination. It is invaluable as a description of how the intelligence agencies work in the United States.
Garrison conclusively proves that Oswald did not even fire a shot at Kennedy, but was a prepared patsy; that Oswald did not shoot Officer Tippet; that people impersonated Oswald for quite a time before the assassination; that Oswald worked with CIA and FBI figures like David Ferrie and Clay Shaw as a fake ‘communist’ in New Orleans; the Ferrie and Shaw openly discussed killing Kennedy; that Jack Ruby delivered guns to the grassy knoll just before the assassination; that about 15-20 people were openly involved in the assassination as shooters, getaway drivers, diversions, fake Secret Service agents; that the Dallas police destoryed much valuable evidence, and that the whole force of the secret police and their political allies in the United States blocked a real investigation of the killing.
He concludes that this event had all the hallmarks of a military coup by the secret police, aiding the political class in support of a continued hard-line, cold-war approach against the USSR, Cuba and for intervention in Vietnam - a line Kennedy was not following.
And I bought all but one of these books in the new and used sections of MayDay Books
Red Frog, 12/1/2009