Negotiating With the Dead

Negotiating With the Dead

A Writer on Writing

Book - 2002
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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? Margaret Atwood's wide reference to other writers is balanced by anecdotes from her own experiences, both in Canada and on the international scene. The lightness of her touch is underlined by a seriousness about the purpose and the pleasures of writing, and by a deep familiarity with the myths and traditions of Western literature.
Publisher: Cambridge [England] : Cambridge University Press, 2002.
ISBN: 9780521662604
Branch Call Number: 808.3 Atwoo 3701 1
808.3 Atwoo 3701 4
Characteristics: xxvii, 219 pages


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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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