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A portrait of the author as an icon.

Awhile back I said I would post a photo of the Margaret portrait that now graces my apartment. I got busy and forgot, but now the artist, Carolyn Bell, has a website gallery where you can view it. It's part of an "Icon" series that also includes Michel Foucault and Virginia Woolf, and is also available in greeting card format (for those times when you need some epistolary inspiration).

Earlier today, Margaret tweeted an iPad illustration of herself by Pablo Francisco.

It would seem her appearance readily lends itself to portraiture, not to mention media scrutiny. While doing some research on Atwood's celebrity, I noted disproportionate reference to her appearance, in particular her "Medusa-like" hair. I'd be interested to research/hear if anyone's done any work on this topic. The woman herself once remarked, "‘If you write a book on me, you have to have a chapter on hair."

The Blind Assassin.

After several failed attempts over the years, I powered through and read all 520-something pages of The Blind Assassin (hardcover edition) last night. This time I had the motivation of "required reading" for a seminar I'm taking, but time constraints meant it had to happen in one sitting. I don't recommend that.

I wasn't as bothered by the sci-fi bits as I had been in the past. In fact, there was much less sci-fi than I'd thought there would be, based on the first few chapters, and I actually started looking forward to the continuation of The Blind Assassin novel-within-a-novel every time Iris launched into one of her treatises on aging (invariably over the joyless consumption of coffee and a donut) that I could so clearly hear in Margaret's monotone.

Also, I know M.A. loves wordplay and etymology (and I love that about her), but all of her characters do not need to share this trait. (Example: "That’s my trousseau, I thought. All at once it was a threatening word—so foreign, so final. It sounded like trussed —what was done to raw turkeys with skewers and pieces of string.") A few times, it's interesting, but after awhile, I wanted her to let the words pass, unmolested. To be fair, I was likely cranky after 10 hours of reading. Or maybe I'm just getting old, Iris-style.

So it wasn't my favourite Atwood (that'd be Cat's Eye), but I appreciate what she's doing with genre here. My discussion question for the seminar: It could be argued that with its pulp sci-fi story safely couched within the more traditional narrative that frames it, The Blind Assassin became the first (semi-) sci-fi novel to win the Booker Prize. Sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson attacked the Booker for awarding "what usually turn out to be historical novels" --which The Blind Assassin could also be classified as.

At the same time, Atwood herself has said that she does not write sci-fi; rather, she positions books like The Handmaid's Tale and The Year of the Flood as speculative fiction, based on the plausibility of the events contained therein. Ursula K. LeGuin argues that this is a strategic move on Atwood's part, deployed to avoid being forced into a "literary ghetto." Is The Blind Assassin's story-within-a-story the subversive act of an author with sci-fi leanings attempting to bring the genre to mainstream attention and critical acclaim, or should we take Atwood's rejection of the sci-fi label at face value?

I should add that I don't have anything against sci-fi as a genre; it just isn't what I seek out as a reader.

Spam.

Not sure why the recent influx of pornspam in this quiet community, of all places. Maybe someone can enlighten me. I'm trying to delete the posts and ban users as soon as I see them, but it can take me up to a day. Don't really want to switch to moderated posting but we'll see how it goes.

In more exciting news, my apartment walls and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a portrait of Margaret Atwood done by a local artist. It has hand-applied gold-leaf and everything. I'll post a photo when it's arrived.

In more-exciting-than-pornspam, less-exciting-than-gold-leaf-Peggy news, I'm going to be giving a presentation on literary celebrity in a couple of weeks for a class I'm taking, and I'm thinking of talking about, in part, Atwood's use of social media. Specifically, Twitter. More specifically, that she can't seem to stop Tweeting (one might say "spamming"), and I fear it's making me like her less.

I bookmarked this tweet a couple of weeks ago from @LitCritHulk: WEIRD THAT MARGARET ATWOOD'S TWITTER MAKE HULK WANT TO NEVER READ HER BOOKS? BANAL GRANNY TWEETS SMASH LITERARY MYSTIQUE.

Heh. I still like her, though.

Market Research for a Novel Adaptation

Hello,

I'm an MA student and I'm developing a video game based on Margaret Atwood's novel 'Oryx and Crake' as my final project.

Though this isn't a commercial venture as it's just an educational work, I find it particularly interesting that there haven't been any video games yet that have been appreciated or respected in the same way as literature is.

I was wondering if you had a second to answer a questionnaire to help me with my market research.

The survey can be found here.

Thank you either way,

Natalia

Surfacing.

I had another close encounter with Peggy this past week. She was delivering one of the CBC Massey Lectures, from her new book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. Much was made of her clairvoyant nature.

The lecture itself, "Debt and Sin," was thought-provoking, though I think most would agree that the next lecture, about debt's many appearances in literature, is where she shines.

The Q&A portion of the evening is always the most revealing, and the thing that gets me is how quick she is. I can't recall a specific example now, but it's like an intellectual party trick, how she can immediately engage with the most esoteric of questions and espouse a related theory.

I was all prepared to redeem myself after the mute star-struck routine of last time, but there was no opportunity. She was giving a taped interview while signing books, so I stood patiently in front of her and the interviewer for a couple of minutes while they talked in low tones.

Margaret fiddled with the Post-It note with my name on it, which I'd been asked to stick on the page I wanted her to sign. I couldn't make out the full conversation, but at one point, she made devil horns in what I believe was an impersonation of Stephen Harper.

She's so awesome.


The CBC Massey Lectures will be broadcast on "Ideas" November 10-14.

Margaret Atwood on Anne of Green Gables.

In the Guardian:

'Nobody ever did want me'.

The story of an orphaned, talkative, red-headed 11-year-old sent to a remote farm by mistake, Anne of Green Gables was an instant success in 1908 and, a century later, is still loved by girls from Canada to Japan. Margaret Atwood salutes a childhood classic.

Margaret Atwood on "Brave New World."

'Everybody is happy now'.

A world of genetically modified babies, boundless consumption, casual sex and drugs ... How does Aldous Huxley's vision of a totalitarian future stand up 75 years after Brave New World was first published, asks Margaret Atwood.

Who brought the cat?

Hi everyone, I see this is a pretty quiet community overall, so I just thought I'd step in and say hello. I've been into Margaret Atwood for a few years now. My introduction was Dancing Girls (specifically "Rape Fantasies"); I was really impressed by her wit and skill and had to keep reading. My favorite book is Cat's Eye. That book has probably inspired me to do more writing than anything else I've ever read.

Well, I guess I don't have as much to say as I thought, but I just thought it would be a good idea to say hello.

Newbie

 Hello, all!

I'm new to the community, so I just want to say hi to everyone.  I'm a big fan of Margaret Atwood.  I'm on a mission to read everything that's she's ever written but there's a whole lot of it, so it'll be more of a life-long goal.  My favorite novels of hers  are The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake.  I'm reading The Penelopiad now and loving it.  

Also, for a school project, I'm researching Margaret Atwood's influence and importance as a writer.  I thought it would be really interesting to hear from all of you, her fans, just why you think Atwood is so fantastic.  It would be great it you guys could e-mail me at Lovely_Tomorrow@hotmail.com and just tell me why you find Atwood to be such an important writer.  Thanks!

Ooh ooh, and I am totally bummed out that I do not live in Canada and, therefore, could not see the Turning Pages documentary on Margaret Atwood.  That would have been incredible.  Does anyone have any ideas on how I could get my hands, er, eyes on it?  

Anywho, I'm really exciting to be a part of this community.  Hope to talk to you all soon!

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