Talking Dystopia with Margaret Atwood, Scott Pruitt’s Zealous Attack on the Environment: Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing excellent content, but also keeping an eye on other great writing from around the web. This may be a predominantly arts/culture-centric website, but given the immediate gravity of U.S. politics, we’ve been focusing this outward-looking post on indispensable political writing, as well as the occasional culture piece.

Rebecca Mead of the New Yorker has the Margaret Atwood profile we’ve been waiting for in the run-up to Hulu’s scarily timely TV adaptation of her 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Titled “The Prophet of Dystopia,” the article is a fine primer on the genius and idiosyncrasies of the famed Canadian author and her most famous book:

Atwood is a buoyant doomsayer. Like a skilled doctor, she takes evident satisfaction in providing an accurate diagnosis, even when the cultural prognosis is bleak. She attended the Toronto iteration of the Women’s March, wearing a wide-brimmed floppy hat the color of Pepto-Bismol: not so much a pussy hat as the chapeau of a lioness. Among the signs she saw that day, her favorite was one held by a woman close to her own age; it said, “i can’t believe i’m still holding this fucking sign.” Atwood remarked, “After sixty years, why are we doing this again? But, as you know, in any area of life, it’s push and pushback. We have had the pushback, and now we are going to have the push again.”

In the wake of Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian airbase from which chemical weapons had been launched, it was inevitable that pundits would declare the force of military might the “moment Trump became president.” But Slate‘s Jamelle Bouie isn’t convinced. Pointing to two recent interviews Trump gave to Time and the New York Times, Bouie writes:

We don’t yet know the details of the deliberation behind the airstrikes, but we know enough about Trump to say one thing, at least. There is no All-New All-Different Donald Trump. He hasn’t suddenly sobered up. And even if you agree with his decision to attack Syrian government assets, there’s still no evidence that his temperament has changed, or that he’s gained any wisdom or insight. Indeed, his first two months as president are demonstration that the Trump who now sits in the White House is the same Trump who blasted Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” attacked a Gold Star family, and bragged about sexual assault. He’s still as ignorant of American government—and as contemptuous of truth and knowledge—as he was when he took the oath of office.

Insert “what’s-the-matter-with-Kansas” joke here: On Wednesday, Republican Ron Estes defeated Democrat James Thompson to win an open seat in Congress in what many had looked to as an early test of Democrats’ ability to turn traditionally red states blue. Still, it was a tight race, and the New Yorker‘s Benjamin Wallace-Wells notes that Estes won by only a seven percent margin in a district that Trump won by a margin of 27 percent. But he cautions against reading too much into these special elections:

There is a tenor to politics right now that does not have an obvious way to express itself. Trump is, by historical standards, very unpopular, and his highest-profile projects have either collapsed into chaos (such as his effort at health-care reform) or provoked broad popular outrage and judicial rejection (the travel ban). Progressives seem angry and ascendant, but until the midterm elections, still more than a year and a half away, there is no good way to test the extent of that ascendance.

As Earth Day approaches, let’s not forget that despite the mind-boggling incoherence and disorganization of the Trump Administration, there is one topic on which it has employed laser precision: Gutting environmental protections. As David Horsey points out at the L.A. Times, the “administration’s attack on the environment is operating with the focus and zeal of the Spanish Inquisition.” He continues:

The Republican dogma of unrestrained economic exploitation drives the president and his EPA chief. As a result, climate science has become a heretical activity. It is no wonder government scientists have been very busy since the election transferring vast amounts of research from government computers to private servers. They fear it will all be destroyed by the new Savonarolas in a technological bonfire of the vanities.

Over at The Hollywood Reporter, Lesley Goldberg has a dishy little oral history of the ABC powerhouse Scandal, created by the one and only Shonda Rhimes. Here, Rhimes joins stars Kerry Washington, Tony Goldwyn, Scott Foley, and more for a wide-ranging discussion of one of TV’s best political shows. Washington remarked on the then-novel, now-common practice of stars live-tweeting during their shows:

We reached out to influencers who were friends, like Sam Jackson and John Legend. We had the benefit of this historical moment with a black woman as a lead, and that helped start some buzz. From the beginning, I felt a pressure of us having to do well for the black community as a whole.

In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, Christopher Browning reviews a new book by German author Volker Ullrich called Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939, translated by Jefferson Chase. The review is called “Lessons from Hitler’s Rise.” I’m just gonna leave this here. Browning writes:

If Hitler and Trump are utterly different in their childhoods and wartime experiences on the one hand and attitudes toward women and wealth on the other, the historical circumstances in which they made their political ascents exhibit partial similarities. Within the space of a single generation, German society suffered a series of extraordinary crises: four years of total war that culminated in an unexpected defeat; political revolution that replaced a semiparliamentary/semiautocratic monarchy with a democratic republic; hyperinflation that destroyed middle-class savings and mocked bourgeois values of thrift and deferred gratification while rewarding wild speculation; and finally the Great Depression, in which the unemployment rate at its worst exceeded a staggering 30 percent.

And, finally, an interview with a 29-year-old man who has a tramp stamp that reads, “Executive Producer DICK WOLF”:

Obviously I’m obsessed with Law & Order: SVU. Obsessed. I watch it every single day of my life. So one day, me and my tattoo artist were just talking about what I should get next. I told him I’ve wanted a tramp stamp for a while, and we were talking about Law & Order and Mariska Hargitay and everything, and I was like, man, I would love to get a Law & Order tramp stamp. And then he thought of the executive producer thing, and I was like, that is so perfect. I want that right now. And the rest is history.

Happy Friday, folks.