Friday, December 8, 2017

Henry Bemis Books has first editions ripped from the headlines!

This story is breaking even as we post:

 A former aide to Republican Rep. Trent Franks has told the Associated Press the congressman repeatedly pressed her to carry his child, at one point offering her $5 million to act as a surrogate.

The congressman moved up his January resignation to this afternoon, it appears.

 atwood handmaid.jpg

2017 saw Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s 78th birthday. Horace Walpole wrote a friend two centuries ago, “It is charming to totter into vogue,” and Atwood is making the most of hers. As The Guardian reported after the US presidential inauguration,

Margaret Atwood has said worries about women’s issues after the US election have made her book The Handmaid’s Tale the latest dystopian novel to shoot back up bestseller lists.

The book, about a theocratic dictatorship in the US where women are forced to bear children for the ruling class, topped Amazon’s bestseller list earlier this week, and still ranks in the top 10.

In an interview during Cuba’s international book fair, Atwood said sales of The Handmaid’s Tale were also boosted by a trailer during the Super Bowl for its new televised adaptation by video streaming site Hulu.

“When it first came out it was viewed as being far-fetched,” the 77-year old said of her novel that was originally published in 1985. “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.”

...“You are seeing a bubbling up of it now,” she said, referring in particular to moves under President Donald Trump to restrict the right to abortion. Trump said last year women should face punishment if they receive abortions, a comment he later retracted.

“It’s back to 17th-century puritan values of new England at that time in which women were pretty low on the hierarchy.”

The first-person narrator of The Handmaid’s Tale tries to escape to Canada. Some have already taken refuge there since Trump’s election, Atwood said, adding that it had historically been seen as a place of relative safety.

In the TV adaptation that debuts in April and features Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss, Atwood plays a cameo role.

Dystopian fiction is enjoying a moment. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, first published in 1949, ranks third on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Orwell’s book features an authoritarian government that spies on its citizens and forces them into “doublethink”, or simultaneously accepting contradictory versions of the truth. Sales spiked two weeks ago after a senior White House official, Kellyanne Conway, used the term “alternative facts”, an expression some denounced as “Orwellian”.

“We think as progress being a straight line forever upwards,” said Atwood. “But it never has been so, you can think you are being a liberal democracy but then – bang – you’re Hitler’s Germany. That can happen very suddenly.”

Cuba and Canada were alike in that they were small countries that both keenly felt the impact of international politics, said the author, who has made regular trips to the Caribbean island since a first cultural exchange in the 1980s. Birdwatching was one of the activities that kept her and partner Graeme Gibson coming back, she said.

Several new editions of her books are being presented at the Cuba book fair, which runs until 19 February and in which nearly 50 countries are participating.

What’s the fuss?

“Welcome to the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States of America”, Mary Andrews wrote in a review last August:

There’s been a coup, the president has been murdered and an all-powerful, Christian fundamentalist army has imposed a terrifying new order on its citizens. The country’s borders have been shut. There is no escape. Women are the main target of the regime’s brutality. Their rights and personal freedoms have been abolished. They are no longer allowed to work, to own assets or to be in relationships not sanctioned by the state. They are now categorized according to marital status and reproductive ability. They are either Wives, married to Commanders, the founders and shapers of the new regime; Econowives, the spouses of lower-ranking men; Marthas, too old to have children and now domestic slaves; Aunts, the regime’s propagandists; or Handmaids, considered fertile and forced to bear children for officials.

It’s the story of Offred, a Handmaid with a dodgy future:

Already on her second placement as a Handmaid, she knows that if this assignment fails she has one more go before she is declared invalid and shipped off to the Colonies to clean up toxic waste along with the other women that Gilead considers useless or dangerous.

Published to great acclaim in 1985, the book is widely considered a triumph of dystopian fiction with a decidedly feminist twist. But Andrews makes a persuasive case that- far from being a portrait of horror- Offred’s story, left behind on a cassette tape- is one to give us hope. She never gives up hope herself. She manages to find love. She survives against all odds and a rigged, hateful regime:

The book ends with an academic lecture on the Handmaid’s memoirs, set hundreds of years in the future. We learn that soon after Offred’s affair with Nick, the Commander’s house is raided by the secret police and that Offred is taken away. No one knows where to. The recording breaks off, but the implication is that the raid was staged by Nick and that Offred was very likely saved. We know that Gilead lasted many more years before collapsing. Now it’s a history lesson. Atwood’s final message is a promise. The regime which attempted to annihilate hope failed. The human spirit is, ultimately, indomitable.

Henry Bemis Books has an excellent first edition copy of The Handmaid’s Tale on offer:

Atwood, Margaret, The Handmaid’s Tale (Houghton Mifflin, 1st ed, 1st printing, 1986). Famed tale of the United States’ evolution into a monotheocracy whose people made the Puritans seem like an average night at Studio 54. A dystopian favorite! Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. HBB price: $79.95 obo.


Henry Bemis Books is one man’s attempt to bring more diversity and quality to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg market of devoted readers starved for choices. Our website is at Henry Bemis Books is also happy to entertain reasonable offers on items in inventory; for pricing on this or others items, kindly private message us. Shipping is always free to US locations; local buyers are welcome to drop by and pick up their purchases at our location off Peachtree Road in Northwest Charlotte if they like.

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