When, on reading Margaret Atwood’s new post-apocalyptic dystopian novel for review, I came upon a section called “Girl Stuff,” I knew love. That a writer who’s so serious, and so seriously sees where we’re going–witness A Handmaid’s Tale and this Oryx and Crake trilogy–can be such a wag is a wonderful thing.
The book features utterly innocent bioengineered people (Crakers) whose form of address is “Oh,” as in “Oh Toby.” So when one of the actual humans they’ve fixed upon as a hero wakes from a coma with the words, “Oh, fuck,” the Crakers ask, “Who is this Fuck?”
At a loss to explain, the woman they’re asking tells them “he” is invisible, but is often called upon for help. After further discussion the Crakers declare in all earnestness: “We will sing to this Fuck.”
In the mingling of Crakers and foul-mouthed humans, there’s more, of course.
As to the “girl stuff,” one of the characters (Oh Toby), who’s feeling a suspicion of jealousy, cautions herself, “This is not high school.” And it certainly isn’t. But, as Toby thinks next, “in some ways, it more or less is.” After all, this is the woman who gave us Cat’s Eye. She’s got a remarkable capacity for portraying “girl stuff” in its essence, the nurturing alliance and the competitive clash, as it might exist in whatever form the world and girlhood might take.