Yesterday morning I ran four miles. Well, three and then one meandering mile.
I also finished both Leithart’s Jane Austen and Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood. A fairly dramatic dichotomy, I am aware. (I had to look up that word to verify I was using it correctly. Six years of higher education and I still worry my vocabulary like a loose tooth.)
I enjoyed Jane Austen. It was bright and light, just like the author herself. He gave a good selection of her correspondence, a touching picture of her relationships with her siblings and nieces and nephews and shed some light on her true personality. I liked that he didn’t turn her into the saint her brother seemed to wish her to be, but allowed that her humor was somewhat juvenile. Maybe I liked that because I myself wrote gothic-like novellas as a child, with murders and girls dressed as men and daring chases on horseback. Now that I’m older, I often find that my sense of the ridiculous (and an inordinate and somewhat troubling penchant for collecting gossip) is still stuck somewhere back in college. Perhaps I too, could pull a witty novel out of it. Eventually.
Atwood’s latest dystopian novel, a sort of companion to the dire and hopeless Oryx and Crake was incredibly well written. Atwood, whatever else, is a brilliant and insightful writer. Granted, her apocalyptic vision is disturbing and sometimes seriously dark, but so well-written. The world has been wiped by what The Gardeners, a vegetarian quasi-Christian sect, call the Waterless Flood. We follow two women who survived: Toby, an ex-Gardener “Eve” who is living in an old spa, and Ren, a dancer trapped in a high end strip club. Unlike the self-consumed male narrator of Oryx and Crake these women have deep, abiding relationships that sustain them even as the world falls apart around them, even when they don’t know if they are the only people alive. I did think that Ren’s perpetual naivete was grating after a while. Her teenage years, especially, seemed a bit far-fetched. There comes a point where you realize some realities of life whether you want to or not, but Ren seemed intent on disbelieving the lies and coverups going on around her.
Anyway, if you like dystopian fiction, this is a good read, if a bit dark at some points.