Margaret Atwood #
On Writing: #
Margaret Atwood advocates for the agency of all citizens to activate our governments for the common good. Inspiring leaders energise nations to lift them to greatness.
While she claims she is not an activist, because she never risks her livelihood, she was involved in various protest movements in her life, Vietnam, feminism in Harvard or Cambridge. The raids on gay bathhouses in Toronto, institutional contempt, makes her angry and sick. What did the authorities have against cleanliness?
Atwood claimed she never thought she would be a popular writer, only wanted to be a good writer.
A word after a word after a word is power. Language is a tool of empowerment.
We are all inveterate story tellers. “Your goal is to keep your reader believing in your story, even though both of you know it’s fiction”.
Fiction should finesse the horror of truth into a tale that offers readers at least the possibilities of alternatives. Just because something is, doesn’t mean it should always be.
Nothing that went into The Handmaid’s Tale that had not happened in real life at some time or other. I don’t have an evil imagination. I didn’t make it up.
You get better at things by doing things over and over. Write by writing. Fail and then fail again better next time.
We need to accept our own power and not let anyone take if from you. Refuse to be a victim by engaging in dialogue with the problems of the world. Though there are no paragons of virtue, we can look back nostalgically to the freedoms and rationalism of the past compared to the alarming, disturbing political chicanery of the present. Truth is not irrelevant. We must use our voice to speak out.
Observation of detail is significant. Never avert your eyes.
Acknowledged the cruelty in her work, reflects the cruelty of life.
Canadians through the fifties to eighties felt they had to leave to be internationally recognised. Most publishing houses owned by foreigners who saw the Canadian market as to small.
Atwood sees the Canadian geographic mythological connection to its vast nature of open spaces, skies, lakes, mountains, especially in the North.
Margaret Atwood’s line: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”
The Handmaid’s Tale #
As a novelist Atwood is a supreme artist of the coda, the end that drags its heels and reveals something unexpected.
What makes Atwood’s novel so terrifying is that it’s all plausible. In fact, everything has happened somewhere before
Her scenarios seem uncannily timely, given how many recent events—the threatened defunding of Planned Parenthood, the silencing of Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor, Donald Trump’s repeated expressions of contempt for women—suggest that, if men like Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell have their way, we might end up living in a Gilead of our own. The possibility that the progress that women have made could be reversed seems more likely than it did when Atwood’s novel was published. After all, it’s already happened to Iranian women after the Khomeini revolution, and to Afghan women living under the Taliban.
What’s troubling about The Handmaid’s Tale is the prurient interest it seems to take in state-sanctioned torture and casual aggression against women: female suffering commodified and sold to us as political education. It trades on our terrors, torments its female characters, goes after a hefty profit, and at the same time tries to persuade us that it is not only doing women a favor but furthering their liberation.
The lesbian Handmaid (in Gilead speak, a “gender traitor”)
Atwood is conscious now, as it may be she was not twenty years ago, of the infinite slipperiness of historical truth, the flawed and partial and frequently misleading nature of what the world calls “evidence.”
One may think that, provided they research soundly, novelists are as qualified as historians to attempt the ascent of the glassy slopes of the past. Or perhaps one could say that they are differently qualified; digging their intuitions into the ice, making footholds for themselves.
We can say, the truth is not single, the truth is plural; but pursue it we must, and pursue it as Atwood does here, with every scrap of ingenuity and energy. For the dead have power, Grace believes, and they don’t like to be laughed at.
Abortion Debate; #
“Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?”
The Supreme Court is turning back the clock on women’s rights. The Court’s draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, notes that the Constitution has nothing to say about abortion and women’s reproductive health. But, as Atwood points out, the document doesn’t mention women at all.
“If Justice Alito wants you to be governed by the laws of the 17th century, you should take a close look at that century,” she writes. “Is that when you want to live?”
Alias Grace #
Alias Grace is, among many other things, a meditation on the responsibility of the artist to the dead, and a reflection on the nature of memory. Perhaps there is no such thing as memory, only the process of remembering. The product of memory is reconstruction, not reproduction. Atwood has seen this, and she has illustrated it most beautifully.
She has asked herself, what do we do when we change a string of events into a story? We make a pattern, and each one of us makes a pattern of our own. We know that two witnesses never have the same version, that when a story is told it is changed by every repetition. You cannot separate the story from the person who is telling it, the person who is hearing it