Over thirty years after the release of her groundbreaking novel 'The Handmaid's Tale,' Margaret Atwood has announced her newest project—the sequel nobody expected but everyone wanted. Here's what we know.
Explosive books lead to explosive sales, as British bookseller Waterstones can prove with whopping year-to-date figures: a 50% increase in political book revenue. The explanation? A frightened—and growing—mass of writers and readers “urgently seeking to understand this scary new world.” Though hot, controversial releases like Michael Wolff‘s Trump exposé Fire and Fury and Tim Shipman‘s Brexit commentary All Out War have been driving these sales, the relationship between divisive politics and modern literature is hardly a new phenomenon.
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These new figures are only a continuation of an ongoing trend, with political literature moving to the forefront after the “twin surprises” of 2016, Trump and Brexit. As early as January 25, 2017, just days after Trump formally took office, George Orwell‘s 1984 sales spiked as Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway infamously coined the phrase “alternative facts.” Many compared Conway’s comment to 1984‘s concept of “doublethink,” a relevant term to describe the acceptance of contradictory truths. While always a political text, activists continue to cite the book during protest, with signs such as “1984 is a work of fiction, not an instruction manual” grabbing headlines.
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Fear over restriction of women’s rights took hold early in the Trump administration, leading to a February 2017 spike in sales of Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood speaks to its timeless relevance: “when it first came out it was viewed as being far-fetched; however, when I wrote it I was making sure I wasn’t putting anything into it that human beings had not already done somewhere at some time.” In the wake of the #MeToo movement, works with similar themes have burst into the public consciousness. Naomi Alderman‘s prizewinning The Power depicts a reality in which women have the power to cause pain by violence and consequently live without fear.
“What the raw numbers don’t communicate,” comments Waterstones politics buyer Clement Knox, “is a larger belief permeating through the publishing world that the present poses questions that must be addressed and that writers have an obligation to turn their attention to those questions.”
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For as long as we have been granted freedoms, there have been people fighting to take those freedoms away; this is the most human of cycles. There has never been (and will likely never be, at least not right now) a time when people haven’t had to stand up against the systemic and societal oppression they’ve been forced to deal with everyday.
We’ve been warned about what can happen when we allow ourselves to stop caring about the state of the world and the other people inhabiting it by authors since the beginning of time; the entire dystopian genre is centered around it. So, don’t allow yourself to grow sedentary but also don’t grow too fearful; for as many greedy, selfish, oppressive, bad figureheads there are in existence, there are way, way more of us who really do care and move with empathy while fighting for a world of genuine equality.
So, take a look at these thirteen quotes from dystopian novels and give yourself that extra push you may need to keep marching forward!
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
“Every faction conditions it’s members to think and act a certain way. And most people do it. For most people, it’s not hard to learn, to find a pattern of thought that works and stay that way. But our minds move in a dozen different directions. We can’t be confined to one way of thinking, and that terrifies our leaders. It means we can’t be controlled. And it means that, no matter what they do, we will always cause trouble for them.” Veronica Roth, Divergent
“Did you ever feel, as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out? Some sort of extra power that you aren’t using – you know, like all the water that goes down the falls instead of through the turbines?” Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” George Orwell, 1984
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“We can destroy what we have written, but we cannot unwrite it.” Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
“Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.” Lois Lowry, The Giver
“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.” Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
“Tell freedom I said hello.” Lauren DeStefano, Wither
“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
“I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running, not staying, but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.” Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave
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The act of banning books, and deciding what people can and cannot read, is one of the oldest acts of censorship in existence; as long as we’ve had books, we’ve had people in power trying to prevent us from reading them.
The ironic thing about banning books, however, is that it usually has an adverse effect, making the books much more popular and well-known than they may have been had no one tried banning them in the first place. The books that are banned are usually the ones that urge readers to question the norm, rebel against injustice, and always stand strong; many of the most beloved pieces of literature were banned at one point or another.
But, despite their best efforts, no one can ever get in the way of people reading the books they want to read. These seven banned-books-turned-popular-adaptations prove that and so much more.
1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
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The popular dystopian novel depicting a future in which reading is illegal and all books are burned was banned between the years 2000-2009 due to the burning of the Bible that takes place within the story.
HBO released their movie adaptation May 12, 2018.
2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
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This classic novel detailing the fight for power between a man who’s been sent to a mental institution and the dictatorship of the hospital staff has been banned in schools off and on since it’s publication in 1962 for it’s “glorification of crime” and “pornographic language”.
The popular adaptation starring Jack Nicholson was released November 19th, 1975.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
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The famed Margaret Atwood novel detailing a future in which women are forced to bear children for elite couples in an America that has been overrun by a Christian, totalitarian government has been banned throughout schools since it’s 1985 release for it’s “graphic, sexual language” and “sacrilegious themes”.
The Hulu adaptation aired April 25th, 2018.
4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
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This fantastical story of a young girl as she braves a dangerous journey of good versus evil in a mystical universe has faced controversy it’s 1962 release date due to descriptions of magic and “anti-Christian values”.
The film adaptation starring Oprah, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and more was released February 26th, 2018.
5. 1984 George Orwell
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This dystopian story detailing a world in which Big Brother is always watching, individualism is nonexistent, and everything is against the law has faced criticism since it’s 1949 release date due to it’s heavy political themes and sexual content.
The film adaptation was released December 14th, 1984.
6. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
via Hollywood Reporter
This controversial novel describing the love affair between antagonist Humber Humbert and his adolescent step-daughter, Lolita, has been banned across the board since it’s 1955 publication for it’s “graphic sexual language” and “inapproriate and disturbing scenarios between an adult man and a young girl”.
The Stanley Kubrick adaptation was released June 13th, 1962.
7. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
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This tragically heartbreaking novel describing the friendship between two twelve-year-olds who create a fantastic, imaginary world has been banned since it’s release in 1977 for it’s themes of witchcraft, atheism, and it’s “inappropriate language.”
The popular film adaptation starring Josh Hutcherson was released February 16th, 2007.
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Elizabeth Moss has been in plenty of Shirley Jackson adaptations, including The Lottery, but she’ll become the author herself in her newest film. Alongside Michael Stuhlbarg, Moss will star in Shirley, based off the 2014 novel by Susan Scarf Merrell that follows a graduate student and his wife who move in with Jackson and her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman.
The film is set to be directed by Josephine Decker with the screenplay written by Sarah Gubbins. There is no estimated release date for Shirley yet, but filming is scheduled to start this summer.
Featured image via Los Angeles Times