Monday, March 8, 2010

The Morning Reading: Margaret Atwood

I've a shelf of Margaret Atwood in my house: poems, stories and novels, novels, novels.

The Elegant Variation pointed this out, an article about a speech Atwood gave recently at Davidson College, printed in the Salisbury Post, written by Katie Scarvey:

Unafraid to poke fun at her younger self, Atwood shared her early life plan: to churn out money-making stories during the day and devote her evenings to crafting works of staggering genius.

She tried her hand at writing True Romance stories. She described the typical True Romance cover: a woman crying, and in the background, another woman in the arms of a man.

The plots were "not difficult to devise," she said. One man might work in a shoestore while "the other rides a motorcycle." The woman makes the wrong choice and then "something happens on the sofa."

"It was done with dots," Atwood said. "'And then we were one, dot dot dot ...'"

"I could do the plots," Atwood said, "but I could not do the dots."


She decided to get a degree and teach English. After that, her plan was to run away to France, "become an absinthe drinker," get tuberculosis and die young like Keats, having written works of staggering genius in a garret.

She was talked out of that, she said, by one of her professors, Northrop Frye, the famous literary theorist, who said, "Why don't you go to graduate school? You would probably get more work done that way."

He turned out to be right, she said.

She went to graduate school at Harvard. She pointed out that at the time the Harvard English department didn't hire women, and that female undergraduates were not allowed to use the Lamont Library, which housed the modern poetry collection. An aspiring poet, she discovered a tiny cache of Canadian poetry volumes in the library females were allowed to use — which happened to be adjacent to the witchcraft and demonology sections.

"My lifelong interest in the Salem Witch Trials was born in those stacks," she said.

As she talked about the trials, some of her political views filtered in, as she remarked that as questionable as the trials were, the Puritans at least conducted them "in a regular manner."

"They did not allow torture to elicit confessions," she said — her implication clearly that a certain country to the south of Canada had actually devolved in certain ways from the 17th century Puritans.

To read the rest, click here.


Margaret Atwood blogs? Who knew? Check out her blog, The Year of the Flood, by clicking here.

Apparently she twitters too - but I don't. You'll have to find her tweets on your own.

1 comment:

Robbi said...

How wonderful about Atwood and her phone. She says she has "a bad relationship with it." I sympathize. I wish I didn't have to have a cell phone at all.

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