Oryx and Crake Read-Along: Post Three (Part 4 – 6 Reaction)

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For all the details on this read-along, head over to the sign up post on Reading in Winter.

Reading Parts 4-6

If parts 1-3 left me engrossed, parts 4-6 left me enthralled. I read parts 4-6 on my first day with the book. It was near the end of this section that I realized I was going to finish the book soon – really soon.

I was staying in a cabin on Cape Breton Island with my family, and I must thank my 18-month-old for demanding to nurse constantly while we were away – we were down to once a day, but he was looking for something familiar, I guess. As much as it sucks (ha ha) to have a 30+ lb, squirmy, violent toddler latched on to you 24-7, there are benefits.  Oh, I guess I have to sit down and, oh, I’ll just grab my Kobo… no, no, you go to the beach without me… Seriously, I finished like four books on this vacation.

Anyways, the book. There’s a lot going on, and this section is more than twice as long as the previous one. Let’s get to it.

Part 4-6 Reaction

Out of Body Experience: Atwood uses a lot of body part imagery and metaphor. Body parts substituted for the whole person, parts of people implanted in animals. It’s like these people aren’t really living in their own skin. I’m not sure what it means, but if I were reading this for a class, I’d be underlining these passages like whoa:

She stroked Killer’s fur, brown hand, pink nails, and Jimmy felt shivery, as if her fingers were running over his own body.

Fingers moving over him, for instance, little fingers with oval nails, painted ripe plum or crimson lake or rose-petal pink… Fingers, a mouth.

…and what is it with fingers?

Numbers Guys and Word Guys: Jimmy refers to himself as “not a numbers guy” and later, as Snowman, goes over archaic words in his mind. Crake is all about numbers and science and logic. Presuming that Crake “won” and Jimmy “lost” (and I’m not 100% sure about that,) this whole dystopia could be a cautionary tale about what happens when society doesn’t value words. Not hard to imagine how a writer’s mind would go there.

Rag ends of language are floating in his head: mephitic, metronome, mastitis, metatarsal, maudlin.

The Entertainment: Ever since reading Infinite Jest, I see its influence everywhere. Sometimes I think I’m imagining it, but there are definite shades of IJ here, from the way corporations have taken over everything, to the environmental disasters in coastal areas, to the depraved state of “entertainment.” We are treated to Jimmy and Crake perusing everything from “Noody News” to “Hott Totts.” Do teenage guys really get together and watch porn? Don’t answer that.

Oryx’s Story: The end of this section reveals Oryx’s early life, in flashbacks, as told to Jimmy. Oryx is strangely unaffected in recounting her childhood of sexual exploitation, which drives Jimmy to distraction. Jimmy is in full anti-hero mode here, as he pathetically threatens the people who hurt Oryx in the past, as if he can do anything, and as if it’s not those very people made their meeting possible:

He couldn’t stand it. If he had this Jack, this piece of garbage, in the room right now he’d wring his neck like a wormy old sock.

Jimmy’s white knight complex aside, Oryx is kind of wide-eyed and naive, given her background. How many layers of unreliability are we at? Even Jimmy, Mr. Unreliable himself, doesn’t buy it:

“You don’t buy what?”

“Your whole fucking story. All this sweetness and acceptance and crap.”

“If you don’t want to buy that, Jimmy,” said Oryx, looking at him tenderly, “what is it that you would like to buy instead?”

I don’t buy it either. This passage made me shudder:

She sighed. “I was thinking,” she said, tracing a little circle on his skim with her fingernail, “that if I ever got the chance, it would not be me down on my knees.”

“It would be someone else?” said Jimmy. “Who? What someone?”

“You want to know everything,” said Oryx.

No, lady, I want to know everything. I’ve finished the second book in the series and I still don’t know what she meant by this, but by god she meant something.

Summary

I mentioned that this section tipped me from “loving it” to “must compulsively read until finished.” Atwood gives us just enough of the characters in this section that you can’t help but read, read, read, to find out how these people get together, and how their getting together ends humanity – if it does. I was still not convinced that Snowman isn’t a madman himself.

Till next week! Check out the other read-along posts at Reading in Winter

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4 comments

  1. Kristilyn

    Good to know that reading still gets done with baby! Thank goodness for ereaders. 🙂

    I’m not sure if this part left me engrossed, but it left me more disgusted than anything else — mainly because I could see all the similarities to the world now while reading.

    I think that Oryx is more like the type who moves on after bad things happen, rather than dwelling on them. Would that be considered naive? There’s nothing wrong with seeing the beauty in the world and WANTING to focus on that, rather than all the negative that’s going on.

    I do like that this book does keep me interested, even though I’m scared and terrified while reading it. Whenever I pick it up each week, it’s nice to know that I don’t need a refresher on what’s going on.

    • lauratfrey

      Oh yeah. Kobo saved my life.

      I think it’s more… understanding HOW she is able to see beauty, when by our standards, she’s had an ugly life. I empathize with Jimmy and his frustration because I’m like him, an outsider. I don’t get it.

  2. Rick @ AnotherBookBlog.com

    Kudos for picking up on all the body part imagery! NOW who feels inadequate? 😉

    Imagery and metaphor are things I pick up on a second reading much more than on a first reading. I’ll have to actively watch out for it from now on.

    I loved that you brought up Snowman’s obsession with words. It’s fascinating me. What a scary thought … a world without reading or words. *shudder*

    • lauratfrey

      Haha thanks. Imagery and metaphor are my favourites. And symbolism. I had this English teacher who used to stop in the middle of a discussion and, like, bellow “SYMBOLISM” and I still hear that when I’m reading sometimes 🙂

      The words/art vs numbers/science is a running theme, for sure. I don’t think I’m spoiling to say that Jimmy eventually ends up working in marketing, while Crake (obviously) becomes a scientist. The ways in which their work is valued (or not) is pretty interesting. Personally relevant too, since I work in marketing and am sometimes a little cynical and disillusioned about it.

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