How come some of the rest of you old ladies have not reprinted this, or said something about it? Here Margaret Atwood, one of us, a mere 72 years old, sharing her skewed view, Canadian + feminist + seer, of all of us and our world.
This appeared in the New York Times Sunday "Review," April 28, 2012. Placed mid-page, centerfold as it were, the entire essay enclosed by the muted pink (!) color seen here. Mari Kanstad Johnsen did the drawing. She is an artist in Oslo, Norway. Marja-Leena Rathje] might be familiar with her work. Atwood tells of her remarkable encounter:
Last night the Martians touched down in the backyard. They were oval and bright pink, with two antlike antennae topped by eyes fringed with sea-anemone lashes. They said they’d come to study America.
“Why ask me?” I said. “America is farther south.”
“You are an observer,” they said. “Please tell us: Does America have a different ‘flavor’ from that of other countries? Is it the center of the cultural world? How does it look to outsiders?”
“America has always been different from Europe,” I said, “having begun as a utopian religious community. Some have seen it as a dream world where you can be what you choose, others as a mirage that lures, exploits and disappoints. Some see it as a land of spiritual potential, others as a place of crass and vulgar materialism. Some see it as a mecca for creative entrepreneurs, others as a corporate oligarchy where the big eat the small and inventions helpful to the world are stifled. Some see it as the home of freedom of expression, others as a land of timorous conformity and mob-opinion rule.”
“Thank you,” said the Martians, after looking up “thank you” on translate.google.com™. “How may we best discover the essence of America?”
Were I the essayist of my dreams, my writing would resemble Atwood's. Moving from straight humor to dark humor, she instructs her visitors to begin with Nathaniel Hawthorne. They speed read. On to Herman Melville. The martians speed-read once again and are amazed by the picture of America reflected in Moby-Dick.
As the creatures prepare for the rest of their visit to the U.S. (Las Vegas to gamble is one stop), motherly Margaret Atwood cautions them to be careful.
“Forgive me for pointing this out, but you look a lot like diagrams of the human female uterus,” I said. “Complete with fallopian tubes and ovaries.”
A human being might be insulted to be told this, but it didn’t seem to bother the Martians. Having looked up “uterus” on translate.google.com™, they said, “Isn’t the uterus a good thing? The life force and so on?”
“In some parts of America,” I said, “the men are obsessed with uteri. They feel that having one is potentially demonic....they’d go completely berserk, and pronounce you pregnant, and put you in jail.”
I will not spoil the ending for you. Read, please, and comment.