Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Morning Reading: Margaret Atwood: Commencement Address at Bard

Margaret Atwood gave the commencement address at Bard College where she was honored with the Mary McCarthy Award.


...I don’t deserve all the nice things you’ve said about me – a writer is doomed once he or she starts believing the billboards — because it’s part of the novelist’s job to represent humanity in its wholeness –warts and all – and you can’t really get into those warts without having some of them yourself. Yes, I am a warty person...

...Back to Mary McCarthy. With her strong and energetic spirit, Mary McCarthy worked her way through various ideologies –adopting them, testing them, rejecting them, to arrive at a belief in – I quote – “the necessity for creative autonomy that transcends doctrine.” That is the gift all warty novelists ultimately need to have, and that is the gift I would wish for you. It will allow you to work in communities, but not to be entrapped by them; to contribute what lies within your power, rather than what others tell you that you must. Above all, relish your sojourn on planet earth. It may be a strenuous and demanding time, but what time has not been? Enjoy the flowers. For happily, there are still many flowers to enjoy...

To read the speech in its entirety on her blog, click here.

(There you can also read her account of her reaction to McCarthy's less-than favorable review of Atwood's 1985 novel, The Handmaid's Tale. As Atwood writes, the review was a "stinker.")

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