Sunday, January 31, 2016

Five books about imaginary religions

Michael W. Clune is a professor of English at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of the scholarly books American Literature in the Free Market and Writing Against Time, and the memoirs titled White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin and Gamelife.

One of his five favorite books about imaginary religions, as shared at
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Ok, this religion is only partly imaginary. Atwood’s dystopian future society does worship Jesus. But the land of Gilead mixes its Christianity with a proto-steampunk fetish for Victorian times, a patriarchal communism (“from each according to her ability, to each according to his needs”), and a completely unhinged attitude towards sex. When it’s impregnation time, for example, the wife holds the handmaiden’s hands as the latter’s field is plowed by the elderly master on a giant canopy bed. While this novel clearly takes aim at the Evangelical movement of the nineteen eighties, the weird touches Atwood adds to her imaginary religion betray that fascination with religion’s uncanny logic that partially seduces even the sternest critic of faith.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Handmaid's Tale made Jeff Somers's top six list of often misunderstood SF/F novels, Jason Sizemore's top five list of books that will entertain and drop you into the depths of despair, S.J. Watson's list of four books that changed him, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's list of eight of the most badass ladies in all of banned literature, Guy Lodge's list of ten of the best dystopias in fiction, art, film, and television, Bethan Roberts's top ten list of novels about childbirth, Rachel Cantor's list of the ten worst jobs in books, Charlie Jane Anders and Kelly Faircloth's list of the best and worst childbirth scenes in science fiction and fantasy, Lisa Tuttle's critic's chart of the top Arthur C. Clarke Award winners, and PopCrunch's list of the sixteen best dystopian books of all time.

--Marshal Zeringue