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Handmaid’s Tale is meant to reassure every wretched office-worker who goes home to a cat, a VCR, and Pizza-for-one that her life is noble and progressive. Handmaid’s Tale is fun horror-fiction for women who work in the American-style cubicle-world precisely because it’s so utterly unrelated to the miseries and terrors of their own lives. No one wants to force middle-class American women to have babies. In fact, it’s almost impossible for them to contemplate having kids, because they’re terrified that it might set them back in their careers, and their rivals in the adjacent cubicles would grab their parking spaces and health plans. Nobody wants to use their bodies. That’s precisely the horror with which they live: no one wants to mate with them because in their world, every single striver must fear every other, and the sort of joint action involved in mating and rearing one’s young is impossible—laughable, a thing which only those who have abandoned the hope of A Career can contemplate. So in their minds, mating and rearing children moves down in class, becoming a thing for rednecks and (though they’ll never say this part out loud) immigrants-of-color. The desire to have children gets bounced outside oneself, onto these lesser beings, and returns, courtesy of Atwood, in demonized form, as the tyranny of procreation, family values and the Patriarchy. It’s the horror they love to fear.

And in the meantime, what has Atwood’s Utopia done, in real political terms? It has managed to distract a whole generation of Americanized women from the real fear and awful loneliness of their office lives. In this way, Atwood’s Canada of the Spirit is, like its real-world counterpart, the good-cop tool, the quaking valet of its Vampire master, America. Atwood’s Canada offers no answer to the Americanized women whose only family is Allie MacBeal and her friends. After all, they’re not rednecks, they’re not Fundamentalists. In fact, the horrible lives of every woman who tries to live out Allie MacBeal is rendered noble by reading Handmaid’s Tale.

So the owners of the cubicles rejoice in the intra-cranial vacations their slaves take in Atwood’s astral Canada. Let them crusade against the Republic of Gilead. Let them invest their wretched slaves’ lives with nobility. The real Republic of Gilead is a matter of dividends, not religion. It would never let the religious obsessions of its cannon-fodder voters interrupt the real business of America—the business carried out in the cubicles. If Allie and Margaret can scatter a cheap glitter over the walls of the cubicles, all the better.

It seems horribly apt that Atwood should win the Booker on the day Bush assumes the presidency. Atwood’s pious, dimwitted, credulous female Canada is the perfect handmaid for Bush’s under-the-table America. Their union is blessed with new offspring every day, every hour. As the coral reefs crumble, the cubicles invade. And everywhere they breed, from Kuala Lumpur to Samara, volumes of Atwood appear like Gideon Bibles at the desks of the corporate handmaids, telling them their lives are blessed.[1]

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