there’s one more kid that’ll never go to school

Allergies have returned with a vengeance. A heavy medical cocktail – two snoots of Nasonex, 10 mg of Zyrtec and some prescription eye drops – have staved off the worst of it so far. This morning, I merely felt severely congested and only one eye looked red enough to merit suspicions of a drug test. Which I would have passed, thank you. Winners don’t use, because users don’t win.

The weather gizmo on my desktop says yesterday’s high was 78. Today’s: 58. New England – the cradle of our nation, folks!

Several people have asked what I think of the economy in the past week or so. I don’t have any insight that you couldn’t draw from reading any major paper. Things grow worse. Once I get some money to move around I intend to invest in a mix of ETFs from Vanguard. But you shouldn’t necessarily take my advice on where to put money. How the economy‘s doing and how I’m doing don’t always go hand in hand – and that’s presuming I even get the first part right.

Plus, my ideas change constantly. I used to want to save up enough to buy my own place. But then someone (either Julian Sanchez or Will Wilkinson) made the point that young, single people rarely improve their lot by buying a house. Once you get tied to a significant investment of real estate, you can’t pack up and move on a month’s notice. Now’s the time I should be chasing job opportunities, crazy projects or hot blondes with a passion for Chandler novels, 70s movies and straight whiskey. Call the difference between my rent and a mortgage (less interest deductions) a flexibility premium. I’m happy to pay.

My point: listen to me if you like, but don’t follow me out onto the lake.

A rare end-week media blow: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. I don’t suppose I need to lend my voice to the volumes of critical praise for this novel, other then: yeah, that. Flynngrrl had a post once about a Supreme Court decision on abortion. In it, she made the point that the question of abortion rights comes down to one fundamental fork in the road: either you believe a woman owns her body or you don’t. Either a woman has an inherent value outside of her social role as Childbearer, or she doesn’t. The Handmaid’s Tale gives us a world where this question has been decided.

I don’t think it presents a realistic view of how religious fundamentalists would seize control of the United States (I hardly think they’d need to gun down Congress). But it doesn’t have to. Good science-fiction doesn’t look for the most likely future outcome starting from today’s events. Rather, it starts from a What If (no matter how outlandish), grounds it in verisimilitude, then rolls from there. And Atwood pulls that off beautifully.

And not only does Handmaid move and inform and signify (yeah, yeah, trivial accomplishments, those), but Atwood’s style amazed me, too. She uses a remarkable economy of language to describe the protagonist’s conflicted emotions – her loathing of her captors, her fearful desire to obey, her absolute and paranoid despair, her nostalgia for an admittedly troubled past, and so forth. Finding a novel this powerful leaves an impression on you; finding a novel this well-written delights you.

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11 Responses

  1. the handmaid’s tale is my all time favorite book.

  2. Atwood rules in general, but THT is beyond fantastic.

  3. I definitely plan on picking up The Blind Assassin soon.

  4. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favorites as well; it terrifies me to no end.

  5. I haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale since I was in high school, I think. I really should come back to it as an adult.

    I can trade you the Blind Assassin. Or give it to you, actually. I’m trying to lighten the pre-move load, and although I enjoyed it – and I think you’ll like a lot of it – I don’t think it’s a rereader for me.

  6. Man, I keep meaning to read that book. It’s been recommended to me time and again. *fails*

    I bought back in 2002 and it’s definitely had its pluses and minuses. I love that I can afford to live in Cambridge thanks to the low, low rates of the sub-prime mortgage scandal (I don’t have one of those, thankfully, but I netted some of the rewards). I do admit that I severely miss the ability to just up and move. Had I that ability, I would have moved by now to a place closer to the T (11 blocks from Central loses its luster after some time) and a place with outdoor space. So many times I rue not having a porch, balcony, etc. But, I still think it was the right decision, despite all my plumbing woes, because I think I am saving lots of money in the long-term. And since I believe you’re a long-term thinker too, it will probably work for you.

  7. Although in theory I agree about HT, very few books have made me suicidal, and that’s one of them.

    Also, are you saying that a mortgage payment would be LESS than your rent? Cos that’s kind of weird.

  8. Mortgage payment – (future return on real estate investment) – (tax deduction for interest payments) < rent. If I buy right.

  9. Isn’t that only if you resell?

  10. I wasn’t planning on buying the house I’d die in at age 27, so … yes.

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