Thursday, May 22, 2014

Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase

Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase: Contemporary North American Dystopian Literature
Edited by Brett Josef Grubisic, Gisèle M. Baxter, and Tara Lee
Wilfrid Laurier University Press: 5/28/2014
Textbook, paperback, 450 pages

ISBN-13: 9781554589890
What do literary dystopias reflect about the times? In Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase, contributors address this amorphous but pervasive genre, using diverse critical methodologies to examine how North America is conveyed or portrayed in a perceived age of crisis, accelerated uncertainty, and political volatility.
Drawing from contemporary novels such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and the work of Margaret Atwood and William Gibson (to name a few), this book examines dystopian literature produced by North American authors between the signing of NAFTA (1994) and the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (2011). As the texts illustrate, awareness of and deep concern about perceived vulnerabilities-ends of water, oil, food, capitalism, empires, stable climates, ways of life, non-human species, and entire human civilizations-have become central to public discourse over the same period.
By asking questions such as "What are the distinctive qualities of post-NAFTA North American dystopian literature?" and "What does this literature reflect about the tensions and contradictions of the inchoate continental community of North America?" Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase serves to resituate dystopian writing within a particular geo-social setting and introduce a productive means to understand both North American dystopian writing and its relevant engagements with a restricted, mapped reality.
My Thoughts:

Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase edited by Brett Josef Grubisic, Gisèle M. Baxter, and Tara Lee, is a very highly recommended scholarly collection of essays on dystopian literature of North America. Admittedly, Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase won't appeal to a broad general population, but, for readers with a literary bent who have traditionally enjoyed dystopian fiction and have been reading the new insurgence of titles and authors to the genre, this could stimulate some contemplation and discussions.

Published in Canada by Wilfrid Laurier University Press, the twenty-six essays of Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase: Contemporary North American Dystopian Literature focus on works published by North American writers from January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) came into effect, to the tenth anniversary of the suicide attacks of September 11, 2001. Clearly with the number of titles being released that fit into the dystopian category, the publishing industry realizes that dystopian fiction is popular and that it "quickly eclipsed its utopian counterpart; with the brutal regimes and massive casualties of the twentieth century, Atwood remarks, depicting awful societies 'became much easier'"

"Whereas the World Economic Forum defines dystopia as an actual (and forthcoming) 'place where life is full of hardship and devoid of hope,' Margaret Atwood describes dystopias as real or imaginary 'Great Bad Places . . . characterized by suffering, tyranny, and oppression of all kinds'." Location 391

While some of the titles discussed in the essays are current popular YA fiction offerings, many are not. This would be a great foundational source for a college literature class on dystopian fiction. I could envision some lively discussions based on what individuals thought about the novels versus the opinions found in the essays. I've read many of the selections discussed and found myself pining for a discussion.

In "Lost in Grand Central: Dystopia and Transgression in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods" author Robert Tally says, "Famously, some dystopias emerge from the attempts to form some sort of utopian society (as in the notorious visions of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four, or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World), but more often the dystopian aura envelops a reality that has simply proceeded along in its quotidian ways. One goes about one’s everyday life and work, while as time passes noting this or that odd occurrence that might be a sign; a creeping suspicion evolves toward certainty, a gloomy presentiment congeals into visible shape, and dystopia appears, right here and right now, where it has been for a while." (Location 6070)

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Wilfrid Laurier University Press for review purposes.


Part I Altered States
The Man in the Klein Blue Suit: Searching for Agency in William Gibson’s Bigend Trilogy by Janine Tobeck
The Cultural Logic of Post-Capitalism: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Popular Dystopia by Carl F. Miller 
Logical Gaps and Capitalism’s Seduction in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl by Sharlee Reimer 
“The Dystopia of the Obsolete”: Lisa Robertson’s Vancouver and the Poetics of Nostalgia by Paul Stephens 
Post-Frontier and Re-Definition of Space in Tropic of Orange by Hande Tekdemir
Our Posthuman Adolescence: Dystopia, Information Technologies, and the Construction of Subjectivity in M.T. Anderson’s Feed by Richard Gooding

Part II Plastic Subjectivities
Woman Gave Names to All the Animals: Food, Fauna, and Anorexia in Margaret Atwood’s Dystopian Fiction by Annette Lapointe 
The End of Life as We Knew It: Material Nature and the American Family in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Last Survivors Series by Alexa Weik von Mossner 
“The Treatment for Stirrings”: Dystopian Literature for Adolescents by Joseph Campbell 
Imagining Black Bodies in the Future by Gregory Hampton 
Brown Girl in the Ring as Urban Policy by Sharon DeGraw  

Part III Spectral Histories
Archive Failure? Cielos de la Tierra’s Historical Dystopia by Zac Zimmer 
Love, War, and Mal de Amores: Utopia and Dystopia in the Mexican Revolution by Marie Odette Canivell 
Culture of Control/Control of Culture: Anne Legault’s Récits de Médilhault by Lee Skallerup Bessette
The Sublime Simulacrum: Vancouver in Douglas Coupland’s Geography of Apocalypse by Robert McGill
Neoliberalism and Dystopia in U.S.-Mexico Borderlands Fiction by Lysa Rivera 
America and Books are “Never Going to Die”: Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story as a New York Jewish “Ustopia” by Marleen S. Barr 
In Pursuit of an Outside: Art Spiegelman’s In The Shadow of No Towers and the Crisis of the Unrepresentable by Thomas Stubblefield
Homero aridjis and Mexico’s Eco-Critical Dystopia by Adam Spires

Part IV Emancipating Genres
Lost in Grand Central: Dystopia and Transgression in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods by Robert Tally 
Which Way is Hope? Dystopia into the (Mexican) Borgian Labyrinth by Luis Gómez Romero 
Dystopia Now: Examining the Rach(a)els in Automaton Biographies and Player One by Kit Dobson
The Romance of the Blazing World: Looking back from CanLit to SF by Owen Percy
“It’s not power, it’s sex”: Jeanette Winterson’s The PowerBook and Nicole Brossard’s Baroque at Dawn by Helene Staveley 
Another Novel Is Possible: Muckraking in Chris Bachelder’s U.S.! and Robert Newman’s The Fountain at the Center of the World by Lee Konstantinou 453
Contributor Biographies

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