MaddAddam Series by Margaret Atwood: A Reading Soundtrack

I am always late to the party.  I didn’t figure out that Twitter was good for more than traffic updates till 2011. I still haven’t watched the last season of Breaking Bad. And I almost never read “it” books when they are first published.

Time was on my side with MaddAddam, the finale in the series of the same name. Reading in Winter hosted a read-along in August, which gave me just enough time to squeeze in The Year of the Flood before MaddAddam hit the streets. I was on the Kobo bookstore before I got out of bed on August 27th, and was finished five days later.

FINALLY, I could talk about the book-flavour-of-the-week!  Except, I didn’t. The amount of press for this novel was huge, and I found myself overwhelmed with reviews and interviews and career retrospectives – I was speechless. What could I possibly say that wasn’t already being said and written and tweeted?

She was on the cover of a Costco flyer, for god's sake.

She was on the cover of a Costco flyer, for god’s sake.

I couldn’t take the pressure of reviewing such a high profile book. Maybe I’ll get around to a proper review of MaddAddam later. Till then, here’s a reading soundtrack.

The Book: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake 2009

2009 Paperback

Song #1: Beautiful Girl by INXS
This song reminds me of Oryx, but it’s really Jimmy’s (and Crake’s) idea of Oryx, of her being a fragile thing that needs to be protected.

Beautiful girl, stay with me

Song #2: The Lonely Life by City and Colour
This one’s for Jimmy. Before the “waterless flood,” he lives the lonely life of a writer, and I think much of these series is about writing, and writers, and their role in the world.

Would I be face down in the gutter
With cheap whiskey on my breath
The lonely life of a writer
Whose words could not pay his debts

The Book: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

yearoftheflood
The Song: The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
Pretty literal interpretation here – the pleeblands have descended into war.

You always seemed so sure
That one day we’d be fighting
In a suburban war
Your part of town against mine
I saw you standing on the opposite shore

The Book: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

maddaddam
Song #1: Blank Page by Smashing Pumpkins
This wasn’t the song I wanted for this book. I don’t like to hunt around for my reading soundtrack songs; I like to wait for inspiration to strike, and it did a couple weeks ago. I heard a song on the radio and thought, “that’s it! That’s my MaddAddam song!” I’d had the songs for the first two books ready for a while. Weeks later, I sit down to write this post and realized that I DIDN’T WRITE IT DOWN. I tore through my notebooks, searched my emails and Evernotes, even read through CBC Radio 2 play lists. Nope. So, I took a different approach and searched through my favourite bands’ lyrics, and found this song.

The idea of a blank page works really well. Crake tries to create the perfect human(ish) being, thinking that he’s selecting all the right characteristics, but really, all he’s done is created a blank page for all those human things he tried to eliminate, like love and spirituality, to be written once again. Blank pages are literally important too, as Toby teaches the Crakers to read and write.

Blank page was all the rage
Never meant to say anything
In bed I was half dead
Tired of dreaming of rest
Got dressed drove the state line
Looking for you at the five and dime
But there I was picking pieces up
You are a ghost
Of my indecision
No more little girl

Song #2: Atlas by Coldplay
Confession: I just want a reason to mention this song because I love it. A Rush of Blood to the Head is one of my favourite albums of all time, but everything Coldplay’s done since then has been a giant let down. This song sounds like something from that era, or maybe even from Parachutes, which I also loved.

There is a connection though. This song is very spare and understated. Maddaddam is too. When I finished the book, I was a bit underwhelmed. That’s it, I thought? No big revelation, so bloody battle? It took a few days to realize what Atwood had done, and I’m sure I don’t totally get it yet, but MaddAddam is a commentary on everything from religion, animal rights, climate change, love, nature vs. nurture, the origin of humans; basically, what it means to be a human being (to paraphrase DFW.) Atwood is so good that she can do all of this without hitting you over the head – kind of like Chris Martin can sing a simple song and just kill it… at least sometimes!

Anyway, I had no idea what the lyrics were, but turns out they are kind of fitting too. The sun, the smoke, the gun? Yeah. And the Crakers and the God’s Gardeners do basically “carry the world” as they start civilization anew.

Some saw the sun
Some saw the smoke
Some heard the gun
Some bent the bow
Sometimes the wire must tense for the note
Caught in the fire, say oh
We’re about to explode

Carry your world, I’ll carry your world
Carry your world, I’ll carry your world

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8 comments

    • lauratfrey

      Thanks! These are my favourite posts to write, though they take even longer than a normal review because I am picky about what songs I use. This one drove me nuts because I hate that they’re all male singers but I just couldn’t find what I wanted from a female artist 😦

  1. Carolyn O

    I’m psyched to read these — now that they’re all out (I’m one of those anxious readers/viewers. Now I can start Breaking Bad too.). Love the soundtrack idea!

  2. Pingback: Snap Scene: Picture Me Reading | Reading in Bed

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