The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
"One day a mysterious old book arrives on Simon Watson's doorstep on Long Island Sound. Filled with elaborate script, sketches, and whimsical flourishes, it tells of doomed lovers and generations of 'circus mermaids' who have drowned -- just like Simon's mother -- on July 24th, which is just weeks away.
As his childhood friend and fellow librarian Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister, who ran off to join the circus six years ago. Could there possibly be a curse on his family? What secrets are hidden in this fantastical book, and will those secrets doom or save the remaining Watsons?"
A note from Erika Swyler:
The myth about writers is that we're solitary creatures who hole up for weeks at a time, talking to no one as we pound away at the keyboard in misery. The myth of the reader is much the same: holed up in a cozy spot, immersed in pages, talking to no one, and preferring books over people. Lies! We love books because we deeply love people, and you and me, we're talking to each other. It's imperative that I thank you for that. Thank you.
People like to ask how I came up with this book. I have a simple, somewhat disappointing answer. I was thinking a little about circus, and about all the history between wars that never gets written. That leaves infinite potential for stories. I was thinking about how land changes over time and what that does to the people who live on it. I was thinking about the ocean and how everything that's beautiful is also a little bit frightening. I was thinking about books and libraries, and how they saved my life. I was thinking about how these ideas aren't unique; they're human. And i wanted to talk with you about them. So. I wrote The Book of Speculation so that we could talk.
I can't wait for our conversation.
With deepest thanks,
The Handmaid’s Tale was a book on the summer reading list in high school that I never got to read. But looking back at the subject matter that this book relates to, maybe this groundbreaking novel is best left for those who can better understand and learn from it.
This book deserves the best analyzing there is to offer. This book needs to be advertised to those old enough to understand its modern relevance and those who can reverse that very idea.
You would think, with a name like The Handmaid’s Tale that the book would be set in a past long before us. The scary reality is that it’s set in the not too distant future. The main character references a time before she became trapped in a handmaiden’s hell.
This all comes to show the readers how fast this change in life style occurred and how quickly the societal structure that we know changed in a drastic and unfortunate way. Realizing this, I related to a famous quote from the book that says, “The fall was a fall from innocence to knowledge.”
I did a lot of research while reading this book and came across wonderful information that helped me understand and connect better to the story. Some of the best analytics came from Sparknotes.com and they are included here.
“In this patriarchal world, men cannot be called sterile. If a woman fails to conceive, she is labeled “barren,” and no one considers that the man’s sterility may have been the reason. Gilead adopts premodern beliefs and rejects modern science in order to glorify men. Yet the doctor’s comments to Offred, our main character whose name stems from “Of Fred” who is her “owner,” show that the belief is adopted only “officially.” Privately, people realize that men, especially older men, like the commanders, or “owners,” can be sterile.
Offred’s fear seems inexplicable at first – how could she not long to escape? But it illustrates the prisoner mentality that sometimes over takes her and others. She wants to survive and the best way to survive is to learn to bear her chains.
When she bears them too well, they become almost comforting to her. Her captivity becomes familiar and the prospect of a new, free life becomes the true, irrational fear.” **
This historic novel leaves no current political quarrel untouched. It’s a novel for the ages and the many more ages to come. We can only hope this book breaks the glass and changes the game.
There is a constant comparison between Offred’s life and that of a prison inmate. Of course, how could a reader not make such a parallel? “I should scratch marks on the wall, one for each day of the week, and run a line through them when I have seven. But what would be the use, this isn’t a jail sentence; there’s no time here that can be done and finished with.” This can be expressive of the mental hell that many sexual assault victims go through.
I was asked to pick a song that I felt best represented the emotions that I went through while reading this novel. I easily and quickly chose “Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga. While you can connect to the song in many different ways and for many different situations, the song was ultimately written about sexual assault. Most people and fans don’t know that Lady Gaga was the victim of sexual assault. She debuted the song at the 2016 Oscars. She had women from all over take the stage with writing on their arms. “Not your fault” was written on the arms of more than twenty women, making a powerful statement for everyone to see.
You tell me it gets better, it gets better in time
You say I'll pull myself together, pull it together
You'll be fine
Tell me what the hell do you know
What do you know
Tell me how the hell could you know
How could you know
'Til it happens to you, you don't know
How it feels
How it feels
'Til it happens to you, you won't know
It won't be real
No it won't be real
Won't know how it feels
You tell me hold your head up
Hold your head up and be strong
'Cause when you fall, you gotta get up
You gotta get up and move on
The song perfectly captures the essence of the storyline. Throughout Offred’s narration we find how she chooses to cope, first by accepting her fate in order to stay safe and then rejecting it all together with the phrase “Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum” translated to “Don’t let the bastards tear you down.” Now doesn’t that sound like something Lady Gaga would say?