Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Blind Assassin by Margret Atwood

Margret Atwood is a first class writer. And she's Canadian, which makes her eligible for the Booker Prize. See, it turns out that only Brits, or citizens of former British Colonies (which, for some reason doesn't include the US of A) are able to recieve this award. As all of you know, I was so completely blown away by the adventures of Saleem Sanai in Midnight's Children that I have vowed to read as many of the Booker Prize winners as I can get my hands on.

Particularly sleuthful readers of this blog will recall that this book has been mentioned before, when it arrived with an armful of books I got the Professor for Valentine's Day a few years ago.

So I took it with me on a whirlwind trip to Europe. The trip was 3 countries, 3 days, which is a pretty brutal schedule when you START over here on the other side of the world. I believe Mongolia is actually closer to where I sit currently than Munich. (Yep, Google Maps confirms.) I had a lot of reading time on planes and the surreality of serious jetlag, exhaustion and travel lent through circumstance an ever greater psychological impact of this book on me.

Language useage is first class. Among the finest novels I've read for wordplay & cleverness with structure on many levels. Atwood always has the right verb to bring her characters to life. She also interjects enough of her own authorial love of langage to her protaganist that the teller of the tale is usually in on the linguistic high-jinx.

Four separate frameworks make up the action and narrative. There's 'The Blind Assassin', a novel which features in the novel. There's a private journal, in which the narrator gives us excruciatingly personal day to day account of the aftermath of events. There is an autobiographical relating of the lives of the main chracters, leading up to the central event. And then there are newpaper clippings detailing the public percepion of all of the above.

These four threads play across the span of one woman's lifetime. They are beautiful, historical, troubling, titilating, lurid, poetic and powerful.

And there's a damn cool twisted sci-fi tale related post coitally throughout. Yep. Sex. Usually a little kinky. Followed by sci-fi. And the sci-fi is worthy of it's own mention, particularly for the style:

'The Blind Assassin' novel-within-a-novel is one part Amazing Stories, one part Conan the Barbarian and one part Gene Wolf. As a work of period piece sci-fi 'The Blind Assassin' is a loving look back at the golden days of American science fiction, with a raised eyebrow towards the psycho-analytical content and gender politics of the genre. Atwood knows old science fiction and can nicely play mimic while issuing subtle comment.

Too long. Too much Word. Move on.

One helluva a fine book, she definiely deserves a prize for this one.


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