Posts Tagged ‘mad max’

Thoughts on Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake by way of wilderness and post-apocalyptic genre traditions
"Snowman wakes before dawn"

“Snowman wakes before dawn” – Oryx and Crake fan art by Jason Courtney
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I gave a guest lecture yesterday on Oryx and Crake for a colleague’s 200-level Environmental Literature course.  My presentation was organized around the ways that the book participates in genres, challenges some of  their conventions, and updates the “classic” dystopia (WeBNW, 1984, et cetera) by moving the locus of power from the centralized state to a more nebulous net of corporations and their mercenaries.

Because nearly any lower-level survey of environmental literature will necessarily include readings drawn from the mostly-American, white male-dominated, wilderness tradition, my prep also involved looking for ways to connect what is going on in Oryx and Crake with those texts that students had recent familiarity with.  I’m not sure how well the lecture worked in setting this up, but the result was something that, in retrospect, seems quite obvious.  However, I hadn’t previously fleshed it out, which was kind of weird (I guess wilderness writing hasn’t been on my mind much recently).  My main take away point is this:  Post-apocalyptic protagonists share a number of traits with protagonists or narrators of the wilderness genre.  This has interesting implications for connecting a reading of Snowman in Oryx and Crake to both genres.


Some old friends are probably laughing at me for this because I once (many times) swore I would never succumb to blogging again because I feel it is too often a solipsistic mode of expression based in notions of self-importance. However, I honestly need a jump-start for writing and an archive for things not fit for the big project I am trying to complete (like a goddamn idiot).

Before moving forward, I feel the need to explain the silly title and something about intent.  For the clever and worldy, or pathetic and mired in the 80s, the title of this is a quite obvious reference to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  This probably makes the typical idiot online assume the writer subscribes to the logic of such deathmatches and simplistic, brutal conflict resolution.  But recall the actual context, scene, and text if you will:


This is the truth of it . . . Fighting leads to killing,
and killing gets to warring.
And that was damn near
the death of us all.
Look at us now, busted up
and everyone talking about hard rain.
But we've learned by the dust
of them all. Bartertown's learned.
Now when men get to fighting,
it happens here.
And it finishes here.
Two men enter, one man leaves."