Negotiating With the Dead

Negotiating With the Dead

A Writer on Writing

Book - 2001
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What is the role of the Writer? Prophet? High Priest of Art? Court Jester? Or witness to the real world? Looking back on her own childhood and writing career, Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors which writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain--or excuse!--their activities, looking at what costumes they have assumed, what roles they have chosen to play. In her final chapter she takes up the challenge of the title: if a writer is to be seen as "gifted", who is doing the giving and what are the terms of the gift? Atwood's wide reference to other writers, living and dead, is balanced by anecdotes from her own experiences, both in Canada and elsewhere. The lightness of her touch is offset by a seriousness about the purpose and the pleasures of writing, and by a deep familiarity with the myths and traditions of western literature. Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Quebec, Ontario, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College. Throughout her thirty years of writing, Atwood has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. Hew newest novel, The Blind Assassin, won the 2000 Booker Prize for Fiction. She is the author of more than twenty-five volumes of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include Alias Grace (1996), The Robber Bride (1994), Cat's Eye (1988), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), Surfacing (1972) and The Edible Woman (1970). Acclaimed for her talent for portraying both personal lives and worldly problems of universal concern, Atwood's work has been published in more than thirty-five languages, including Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic, and Estonian.
Publisher: Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2001
ISBN: 9780521662604
Branch Call Number: 808.3 ATW 2002
Characteristics: xxvii, 219 p


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Nov 18, 2009

Margaret Atwood made me get teary-eyed on the subway while reading this book.

"Negotiating With the Dead" is a reflection on the roles of writers and their readers, adapted and somewhat expanded from the Empson Lectures which Margaret Atwood delivered at Cambridge University in 2000. It is breathtakingly erudite and eclectic, but is also interwoven with very personal and down-to-earth recollections and episodes from Atwood's own journey as both a writer and a reader. It was a sweet reminiscence about the person whom she considered to be her first reader - and who she later paid tribute to with an appearance in one of her novels - that brought on my moved and appreciative tears. It also drove home that the audience and the individual reader are critical figures in the symbiosis of the writer's creative process.

This book brims with examples from the classical to the contemporary of the multifaceted and sometimes conflicted roles, challenges and opportunities of the writer. At the same time, much of it has a conversational tone that undoubtedly stems from both its origin as a series of lectures, but also Atwood's strong and singular voice. Some might count that as a flaw of this work, in that the overall voice is somewhat inconsistent, but I think that's part of its charm and makes the subject matter than much more approachable, digestible and memorable.

Feb 11, 2008

Superb philosophical & poetical work. Forever changed my thinking on the nature of writing.

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