Fangirl Fridays – Margaret Atwood


"I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one ‘race’ — the human race — and that we are all members of it."

MARGARET  ATWOOD


Margaret Atwood. She rules my favorite authors list. Rather small in stature — with a giant, amazing, super mind and voice — I believe Margaret Atwood doesn’t need a long introduction. So I’ll skip her full biography, you can read it here.

Atwood is Canadian, living in Toronto. She has published novels, short stories, poems, and works of literary criticism. She has written science fiction, speculative fiction, historical fiction, and realistic fiction. She is an essayist and environmental activist.

Atwood became known in 1969 with her first novel, The Edible Woman. Reviewers classified it as a feminist story, which she declined. Her definition of feminism appears to focus on more humanistic concerns:
It’s not picking up socks that’s the issue. Who is the ‘we’ that we are talking about [in feminism]? Are we talking about the children who are involved in sex trafficking, or the women in Bangladesh? Are we talking about the Eastern European women who are promised a place in the West and end up as sex slaves? Feminism is a big term. If we are asking ‘Are women human beings?’ we don’t need to vote on that. But where do we go from there? Are women better than men? No. Are they different? Yes. How are they different? We’re still trying to figure that out.

Margaret Atwood does not look like the kind of woman who picks up anyone’s socks. But while we’re on the subject, she thinks that she might just have figured out why. Atwood’s theory is not just airy speculation, but based in evolutionary science:
It’s because we were the gatherers; they were the hunters. Women spent 80,000 years picking mushrooms, and men spent it running after animals. We see the mushrooms – which in this case are socks — and they see the moving object. There have been tests that show women are better at seeing static objects. Source

Atwood has a very strong, clear voice, her writing style is pure and refined, and she comes right to the point. Please join me after the jump for more about this fascinating woman!




The first Margaret Atwood book I read was Cat’s Eye, which Amazon describes thusly: The story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman — but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate.

I read this book somewhere during the 90s and fell in love with the story, the writing, and the author. Naturally, I looked for other Atwood books and read more of her wonderful, disturbing, and hilarious stories.
Here are some of her books and works:

There is so much more — poems, novels, essays — but I think these are more than enough examples.

Some of her books have made it to the big or small screen: The Robber Bride (TV Movie), The Handmaid’s Tale (movie).


As a great fan of Ms. Atwood, I could go on forever about her books and her work, but I will not force such a tedious read on you, Saucy Wenches. Instead, I’d like to share with you some of her awesome, fabulous quotes and punch lines, from her books and interviews. I’d love to share with you a tribute to one of the finest writers and intellects whom I have come to appreciate.

When asked about the disappearance of the elderly in popular culture, she quips:
“Old people disappear from society because they keel over. Look at Diana Athill, my first editor. She’s 92 and carrying on... I always have fun with whatever I do. There’s too much around that’s not fun. People should live life as joyfully as possible,” she says before tripping herself up. “I sound like Mary Poppins.” Source

When asked to tell a short story in an interview for a blog:
Once upon a time there was an amoeba. It ate things and divided in two. Then there were two amoebas. They swam around and ate things and divided in two. Then there were four amoebas. This can go on for a long time, and is why we humans developed sex and plots instead. Source

For you spelling lovers:
My mother said: If you want to be a writer, maybe you should learn to spell. And I said: Others will do that for me. And they do. Either it’s the real person editor, or it’s the little man hiding in the computer who comes out and waves his hands at you and underlines your things with squiggly lines. Source

Let me tell you another aspect of Margaret Atwood greatness. Although she is not young anymore, she adapted quickly and readily to the modern digital publishing world. She devised the Long Distance Pen, a remote signing device that allows her to meet and sign books for her fans all over the world from her own home, which you can read about here.

A beautiful quote from one of her poems,Variation on the Word Sleep:


Here are a few more of my favorite Atwood quotes.
Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise. An eye for an eye leads to more blindness.
~ Cat’s Eye

If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next — if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions — you’d be doomed. You’d be ruined as God. You’d be a stone. You’d never eat or drink or laugh or get out of bed in the morning. You’d never love anyone, ever again. You’d never dare to.

Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth. ~ The Blind Assassin

Stupidity is the same as evil if you judge by the results.  ~ Surfacing

Falling in love, we said; I fell for him. We were falling women. We believed in it, this downward motion: so lovely, like flying, and yet at the same time so dire, so extreme, so unlikely. God is love, they once said, but we reversed that, and love, like heaven, was always just around the corner. The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total. We were waiting, always, for the incarnation. That word, made flesh.

And sometimes it happened, for a time. That kind of love comes and goes and is hard to remember afterwards, like pain. You would look at the man one day and you would think, I loved you, and the tense would be past, and you would be filled with a sense of wonder, because it was such an amazing and precarious and dumb thing to have done; and you would know too why your friends had been evasive about it, at the time.
There is a good deal of comfort, now, in remembering this.  ~ The Handmaid’s Tale

Atwood says she writes a “speculative fiction” rather than Sci-Fi:
I’m not describing our world, but we are going in that direction... it’s a future whose beginnings are already with us.

When interviewed in 2009 by The Independent for her (then) new book, The Year of the Flood, she expresses her ideas about Science and genetics:
This is not mad scientist stuff. It’s not Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Science is a tool, like a hammer. You can use it for good or ill, to build a house or to murder your neighbor. Some of the biotechnology in the book is quite handy. It’s not science you have to look at, but the human beings that use it.


A divorce is like an amputation; you survive, but there’s less of you. ~ Time Magazine, Mar. 19, 1973

Hunger is a powerful reorganizer of the conscience.  ~ The Year of the Flood

War is what happens when language fails. ~ The Robber Bride

Her take on writer’s block:
I never have [suffered writer’s block], although I’ve had books that didn’t work out. I had to stop writing them. I just abandoned them. It was depressing, but it wasn’t the end of the world. When it really isn’t working, and you’ve been bashing yourself against the wall, it’s kind of a relief. I mean, sometimes you bash yourself against the wall and you get through it. But sometimes the wall is just a wall. There’s nothing to be done but go somewhere else.

I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one ‘race’ – the human race – and that we are all members of it.

You can think clearly only with your clothes on. ~ The Handmaid’s Tale

For the past few years, Ms. Atwood has been a public figurehead of Wattpad, which is a free, online community for writers. Users are able to post articles, stories, and poems. The content includes work by undiscovered and published writers. Atwood used the site to publish short stories and poetry there. In October of last year, Margaret Atwood published on Wattpad, in a joint effort with the novelist Naomi Alderman, a serial novel: The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home. This story now has more than 800,000 followers/readers. This is what Atwood says about Wattpad:
Wattpad opens the doors and enlarges the view in places where the doors are closed and the view is restricted. And somewhere out there in Wattpadland, a new generation is testing its wings...

There is more, but as it is, I feel both humble and brave for attempting to give credit to such a mind-blowing person, an Olympic writer, and a great woman. So I feel it is apt to end this gushing with one of Atwood’s quotes about love:


"The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love."

Don’t hesitate, Wenches! Go grab one of her books and give it a try! It may not be an easy read, but the wealth in creativity, imagination, and the power of words is infinitely rewarding.


Comments

  1. She also has a great twitter feed. One year (maybe two years ago?) she attended Comic Con and tweeted pictures of herself with various cosplayers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You have really piqued my interest. I will definitely try some of these books!

    ReplyDelete

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