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The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.
Margaret Atwood's haunting companion to Oryx and Crake will leave you hungry for another book in this "speculative fiction" universe. Written in the alternating voices of young and initially naive Ren and nostalgic but wounded Toby, the novel explores themes of ecology, disaster, relationships, and religion in a world that feels eerily familiar. Unlike Oryx [...]
Today would have marked the 92nd birthday of beloved science-fiction author Ray Bradbury. To celebrate, we caught up with three writers who contributed pieces to Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury.
The trio of writers we spoke with include Hugo Award-winner Kelly Link, 2006 Pulitzer Prize finalist Lee Martin and bestselling novelist Jacquelyn Mitchard. We’ve included their thoughts below.
If you are looking for more Bradbury birthday celebration, SiriusXM Book Radio host Kim Alexander will talk with biographer Sam Weller, author Mort Castle and novelist Margaret Atwood about the late science fiction author tonight at 7 p.m. ET.
Novelist Margaret Atwood and true-crime writer Joe McGinniss will serialize new work with the digital publisher Byliner.
Part of the new Byliner Serials program, the installments will be sold for $2.99 in variety of digital marketplaces. Follow this link to sample Atwood’s Positron and click here to sample McGinniss’ 15 Gothic Street. Here’s more about the serialized works:
Atwood’s darkly comic serial, Positron, was inspired by the resounding response to her short story, I’m Starved for You, which she originally published under the Byliner Fiction imprint in March. The second episode, Choke Collar, comes out today, continuing the story of husband and wife Stan and Charmaine and life in a near future in which a totalitarian state collides with messy human desire. McGinniss’s 15th Gothic Street serial tells the true story of life in and out of an American courthouse over the course of a tumultuous yet typical year. Imagine Law & Order set in Lake Wobegon, except that here it’s all quite real.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was first published in 1985. I was a junior in high school that year and I wish I could say I was with it enough to know about the book but I didn’t even know who Margaret Atwood was back then. Not until I got to college and took a literature by women class did I learn about her. We did not read Handmaid’s Tale in that class. Instead, we read Surfacing and Cat’s Eye. Surfacing is tied for first with Alias Grace as my favorite Atwood book. Over the years I have managed to read Atwood’s poetry, a good many of her essays, and all but two of her novels, The Robber Bride and The Handmaid’s Tale.
I don’t know why I waited so long to read Handmaid’s Tale especially since I went to the dark side in college and became a feminist. Maybe it is because the book became so very popular and for awhile, especially when the movie came out (I did see that) everyone was reading the book. I am not generally accused of hopping onto bandwagons, so I stood aside and watched it drive on by. And after that it just became one of those books I needed to get to.
Well, I finally got to it. I was kind of disappointed. I liked the book and everything, don’t get me wrong. I found it intense and frightening, a story that is still all too possibly real. The writing is good, the story moves along and I found myself fearing for the safety of Offred. I hated the ending. That might be a big part of my disappointment. When I closed the book I had a “that’s all?” sort of feeling. I was expecting more, something bigger, something more damning of the way women are treated. But the style of the book, while not a diary, is diary-like and sort of documentary in a way. And even though I had feared for Offred, I didn’t get an emotional payoff at the end. Having the final chapter be a conference in the future on the history of what happened during the time of the book featuring a discussion on the provenance of the “tale” I had just read is such a bland way to wrap things up. The end needed punch, something like Orwell’s 1984 where Winston ends up loving Big Brother. Not that I want Offred to end loving the totalitarian state of Gilead, but something with a bit of oomph would have been more satisfactory.
Ending aside, Atwood does a fantastic job of creating Gilead and of explaining how it all came about. What resonated most for me was this simple bit:
We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.
Isn’t that how a good many horrors happen? These lines made me think of WWII and the people living practically next door to concentration camps who said they had no idea what was going on. I like to think I would notice something like a concentration camp or even the small changes towards a totalitarian society but when I read books like Handmaid’s Tale there is a small part of me that worries I wouldn’t notice, that I would ignore. I don’t know what I fear more, the possibility of being a person who ignores or living in a society like Gilead.
The book isn’t all doom and gloom, well it is, but there are moments of wry Atwood humor:
The pen between my fingers is sensuous, alive almost, I can feel its power, the power of the words it contains. Pen Is Envy, Aunt Lydia would say, quoting another Center motto, warning us away from such objects. And they were right, it is envy. Just holding it is envy. I envy the Commander his pen.
“Pen Is Envy” Ha!
The Handmaid’s Tale has made its way onto high school and college reading lists. I am very glad for that because it seems a good book to foster discussion about women, religion, and politics. The book is jam-packed with juicy discussable things from the big and obvious to the small and subtle. I will leave you with one of my favorite subtle bits, one that gives me a chill every time I read it:
Change, we were sure, was for the better always. We were revisionists; what we revised was ourselves.
Now I suppose I should get around to reading Robber Bride so I can be all caught up on Atwood novels. Perhaps a book to put on my 2013 reading goals list.
Howe explained in the announcement: “I’d always intended to relaunch One Book, One Twitter … It has a new name—1book140—but what hasn’t changed is the global, participatory nature of the affair: The crowd is still in charge.”
Twitter readers will choose the book to read in the online book club. You can still vote on the following titles: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, The Keep by Jennifer Egan, Snow by Orhan Pamuk, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, and Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead. Reading will commence on June 1st.
This is the sixth year that the BBC has run its short story competition - only open to authors who have already been published - and throughout this week you can listen to the shortlisted entries.
The winner will be announced on Monday
26 September live on BBC Radio Four's arts programme Front Row and will receive £15,000 which must make it one of the most lucrative - as well as prestigious - short story competitions in the world. Honour and glory is great, but it's even better when it is backed up with some money, especially as there are few paying markets for short stories.
gets £3,000 and the other three authors £500 each.
This year's shortlist is:
'Rag Love' by M J Hyland
Set in Sydney, a magnificent cruise ship is in harbour and all one down-and-out couple
want is an hour together in the top suite. Described by the BBC as "eerie".
'The Heart of Denis Noble' by Alison MacLeod
This story is drawn from real life; it shows Denis Noble, the pioneering systems
biologist, awaiting an operation on his heart – the organ that he has
spent his whole adult life studying – and looking back to consider the
relationship between the heart of love and the heart of science.
'Wires' by Jon McGregor (runner up last year)
young woman's life flashes before her eyes as an unusual object flies
towards her windscreen on the motorway.
'The Human Circadian Pacemaker' by K J Orr
As an astronaut attempts to re-adjust to life
on earth, how will his wife cope and can their relationship ever return
to its old rhythm?
'The Dead Roads' by D W Wilson
An American road trip story where two old school buddies try to win the affections of a free-spirited
girl; then a mysterious man enters the picture...
Each of the shortlisted
stories will be broadcast daily on BBC Radio 4 at 3.30pm from today Monday 12
September. It's also available as a
free podcast available to download for two weeks from
Margaret Atwood says that writing is an apprenticeship and that we all learn from our masters, some of them are alive and some of them are dead...This short list should offer a real insight into contemporary writing that demand
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As the Occupy Wall Street protest continues, the activists camped out in New York City have built an impressive library. Thanks to Library Thing, you can now explore the library online and watch it grow.
Currently, the makeshift library counts 390 books. Follow this link to find out how you can donate. We’ve listed ten books from the library below, illustrating the scope of the collection. The Occupy Wall Street librarians also hope to schedule more author visits.
Here’s more from the library blog: Rather than having scheduled mega-events with activist authors coming to pep talk the whole occupation, I would prefer smaller, impromptu groups and a books-oriented approach to fit with our little niche mission. My idea is to ask authors to come talk about the “books that have inspired you” and then whatever else they want. We can post announcements in advance on a dry erase board and/or make an announcement when someone arrives. Then, whoever happens to be around can come check it out. If it’s only a few people, I see no problem with that. Whatever stimulates conversations, and huge groups don’t allow it so much. I feel this is a good role for our library.
What am I reading now? Wandering Wenda by Margaret Atwood
Time Magazine Cover by Mary GrandPré
Harry Potter. What comes to mind when you hear that name? Hogwarts, Magic, Wizard. Let me throw another in to the mix that, perhaps, you didn’t think of: Longevity.
Four years: That’s how long it’s been since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. To this day, J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter is as much a part of our culture as he was than. Actually, in many ways, his reach has grown exponentially.
The growth that I speak can be solely contributed to Pottermore. The creation of this “unique online Harry Potter experience by J.K. Rowling” is, without question, a rebirth for the series. Nothing signals that more then the timing of its release — after the publication of all seven books but before the release of the final movie. Fans didn’t have to say goodbye to their beloved friends after all.
To make certain that wouldn’t change anytime soon Pottermore entered the social media arena. Why? Well, that’s precisely where Potter fans spend their time. In fact, Pottermore took it a step further by launching a corresponding blog, Pottermore Insider, and a Twitter account, @pottermore. Harry Potter has progressed from books to movies to fansites and now taken over social media. And in doing so, ensures that both fans and readers are never far away from tapping in to the magic.
The character of Harry Potter is now an entity that commands attention with the least amount of effort. The mere mention of the name can turn heads. Now that speaks volumes of what he has come to mean to the masses.
Harry Potter may have started out as “the boy who lived” but has quickly become the boy who will live on.
Margaret Atwood was interviewed for New York Magazine’s Vulture Blog and responded to questions about The Hunger Games, which Atwood seemed to not be very familiar with but felt was similar to a portion of her novel Year of the Flood.
So, basically it’s Painball fromYear of the Flood in which people are pitted against other people so other people can watch it on TV? And the origin of that of course is paintball, which is a real thing! It’s always nice to have people see the beauty of one’s ideas. I’m flattered. [Chuckles.] It sounds interesting. Some of these things go way back, mythologically.
In a spooky coincidence, Neil Gaimanrecorded the audiobook version of his contribution yesterday, “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury.” The book also includes work by Dave Eggers, Joe Hill, Audrey Niffenegger, Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman.
Sam Weller, one of the book’s editors and the author of The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradburyposted this message: “I’ll never see you again. I’ll never see you again. I’ll never see you again. The problem with death, you once said to me, is that ‘it is so damned permanent.’ I will miss you dear man, mentor, father, friend. I type these words through heavy tears. I thank you for 12 glorious years of life, learning and laughter. You have blessed me and my family beyond measure, and for that, I thank you. I LOVE YOU.”
Okay, The Beatrix is on her way back from Sunny California, so we’re restocking the refrigerator, refilling liquor bottles, and covering the strawberry stains on the ceiling with a fresh coat of paint.
So, what’s still floating around in our data banks? All sorts of interesting stuff which seems to have been overlooked while Hollywood was in town!
There are just four cards in each pack, but they all pack a punch! First fans will receive a premium base card on thick card stock from the 50-card base set numbered to just 99 copies. Next they will receive a one-of-one sketch card from top Marvel artists. The third card is an industry first where collectors will find a dual, triple or quadruple hinged sketch card. These are really remarkable trading cards and we will be releasing images of them soon. The fourth card will be either a “Classic Corners” card, a Shadowbox card or an “Emotion” booklet card by Jason Adams and NAR!
Are those cards worth $50 each? $10,000 to collect the whole set (if you don’t get duplicates!) What would an unopened pack (one of a calculated 5000) be worth years from now? Basically, Upper Deck is offering nothing but premiums in each pack, which isn’t a bad marketing ploy. Of course, the only way to surpass this would be to offer a single card set of 5000 cards, and let someone try to acquire the entire set (or subsets). Maybe take that sixteen-square-foot “Marvel Universe” poster and cut it into cards. Or commission a newer version, perhaps done on art boards, and cut those up into smaller squares… sort of a sketch card and collector card all in one. Print the art in blue pencil, and have artists finish the artwork, signing the back of each card.
Hmmm…. I wonder what the empty wrapper will be worth?
And also at the Con: Rust, My Friend Dahmer, Creepy are in development. No. REALLY. I keep hoping for “The Cowboy Wally Show” and “Proposition Player”… both could be made for less than $20 Million, easy. Heck, shoot “Wally” on video, to make it seem even more a
Seventy-year-old Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, could teach her successors a few things about online promotion. To help generate attention for her latest novel, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD, Margaret Atwood is blogging, tweeting and creating a YouTube contest.
Here is an interview she did with Reuters about her latest online activity.
Oh, jeez. The New York Times has released their list of 100 Notable Books of 2009. As is always the case when this comes out, I feel a touch overwhelmed. It’s exciting to know that there are always more great books out there to be read, but at times it gets a bit daunting that you can never even hope to catch up. Or is that just me?
I already have Let the Great World Spin and The Year of the Flood set aside for my holiday break reading. And I want to read Half-Broke Horses and Wolf Hall. And Follow Me sounds fascinating. Ack!
Anyone else excited or frustrated by year end lists? See any titles that for sure should be skipped?
Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood is a difficult and disturbing book. I liked it. I finished it on Sunday and I have been thinking about it ever since.
The book takes place during the same course of events as happened in Oryx and Crake only this time instead of being with the scientists we are with the people on the outside. The story is told by two women, Toby and Ren, in alternating sections that often start in the present and then flashback. The last third of the book is all present tense and the story moves forward to end exactly where Oryx and Crake ends.
Our narrator Toby is an adult in her early twenties when circumstances force her to leave the security of the corporation compound and make a life for herself out in the pleeblands. Things are not going well for her when she is rescued from working at SecretBurger (the secret is you don’t know what kind of meat is in the burger) where her criminal boss, Blanco, had chosen her for his woman. Toby was so beaten and bruised that she knew if she didn’t get away soon she’d be dead like the girl who was Blanco’s before her.
She is rescued by the Gardeners, a sort of back-to-nature eco-religious group. The Gardeners are vegetarians and grow gardens on rooftops. They know that at some point there is going to be a waterless flood that, like Noah’s flood, destroys humankind. To prepare for the flood, they learn survival skills and build secret caches of food and other supplies they call Ararats in various places.
Ren comes to the Gardeners as a young girl with her mother who has left her husband because she is having an affair with Zeb, a tall, handsome Gardener who is often sent on secret missions. But after nearly growing up with the Gardeners, Ren’s mother’s affair ends and she takes Ren back to the corporation compound where they used to live inventing a story that she and Ren were kidnapped. Through many twists, Ren eventually ends up back in the Pleeblands working at a club as a dancer/prostitute.
But that is all just plot. There is a definite environmental message of course. The book is peppered with Gardener sermons and hymns. The hymns are marvelous songs to the weeds, in praise of Saint Dian (Fossey), moles, the water-shrew. Margaret Atwood is the only one who could ever work australopithecus into a hymn. The hymns have all been set to music and you can hear snippets of them at the book’s website.
At the heart of the book though is the friendships between women. It is Toby and Ren and their friendships with each other and other women in the book that really carry the whole thing. The men, even the Gardener men, lack something vital. It is because of Toby and Ren that the book is not horribly bleak. These two women become sort of stand-ins for the human race to be compared to the genetically engineered new humans that were created in Oryx and Crake. Toby and Ren provide a hope that not all is lost and broken.
I hope I have managed to give you some idea about the book. Like I said at the beginning, it is difficult and disturbing in many ways, but well worth the time and effort. Should you read Oryx and Crake first if you haven’t already? It’s a good idea but not necessary though because it is a companion book both should be read at some point. And because of the way the book ends, I suspect Atwood will be writing another one in this setting. But then again, maybe she plans on leaving the fate of humanity as an open question.
Two Margaret Atwood fans received an unexpected gift from the novelist recently: superhero costumes.
It began when nephrologist Dr. Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) tweeted about an Atwood novel to his friend, a writer named Melissa Travis (@Dr. Snit). To thank them for their support, Atwood made an unsolicited offer to design superhero costumes for their Twitter aliases. You can see Atwood’s designs for Dr. Snit and Kidney Boy in the above image.
Topf couldn’t be more pleased and wrote in a personal blog post: “This has been wonderful and exciting. How cool is it to exchange with an author I love and respect. It demonstrates how small the world can be.”
At the end of his autobiographical memoir, Graham Greene says:
'For a writer, I argued, success is always temporary, success is only a delayed failure. A writer's ambition is not satisfied like the business man's by a comfortable income, although he sometimes boasts of it like a nouveau riche. ... The writer has the braggart's excuse. Knowing the unreality of his success he shouts to keep his courage up. There are faults in his work which he alone detects...'
The real satisfaction lies in putting those things right, in other words in the writing itself.
Graham Greene was a great writer, one who understood not only how prose works, but the inner workings of those who produce it.
As I read this, I was struck by the truth of it. I'm sure there will be many who will deny it, but they know in their hearts that this is true. We ARE never satisfied. Once we are over the first great hurdle, that of getting our work published at all, then there are other goals to achieve: prizes, sales, money, fame, recognition. We need other people to recognise the worth of our work, and through that, ourselves. Even if we gain everything, prizes, fame, money, the whole works, then we still know that our star will inevitably fade. Success is fleeting, at best.
We now have more ways to shout, to keep our courage up. We can blog, tweet and twitter, post videos on YouTube. We can be out there, like barkers at some virtual literary fair, shouting out out wares, bidding readers to come see, come buy, know about us. I wonder what GG would think about all that?
Yesterday, I came across the wise words of another great writer: Margaret Atwood.
I was directed by Adele Geras to fictionbitch.blogspot.com where I found this quote from an interview in the Literary Review:
'...people are trying to pile stuff onto authors, like you have to blog, you have to have this, you have to have that. Various party tricks. You actually don't ... an author's job is to concentrate on the writing, and once the writing is finished what you essentially do is throw it into a bottle and heave it into the sea... There is still a voyage between the text and the unknown reader; the book will still arrive at the door of some readers who don't understand it - who don't like it. It will still find some readers who hopefully do...'
I guess people will say, she would say that, wouldn't she? Just as it is easy to dismiss Graham Greene's words - how much more successful can a writer be? But I don't think these observations come from self satisfaction and complacency. They come from the very things that make these two such successful writers: their powers of observation, depth of insight, honesty and courage to express thoughts that might be unpalatable, but are nonetheless true. The only real satisfation has to come from the words we put down on the page and the connection we make with readers, no matter how many, or how few.
Yes, we’re beginning today by sneakily seeking out weirdo memories from my own youth. This week my attention was directed to that picture book version of the Peter, Paul and Mary song Puff the Magic Dragon. It reminded me that long before Yarrow’s words were set to paper, they were appropriated for this bizarre television series where Puff became a kind of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Watching it you can’t help but notice that first off, that’s the least frolicksome dragon in the history of the world. Then you have this episode (which I believe is the first) that if you look at it today appears to be hinting at several very serious mental diagnosis for Jackie. Ah well. I remember liking the show, though I suspect I just liked the theme music.
Moving on, I have a lot of fun on Wednesdays in my library showing a variety of different picture book to film adaptations (mostly Weston Woods). Two of my sure-fire favorites are Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (I always play the credits) and Knuffle Bunny. Now that I see that The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog is on the horizon as well. Hooray! Flower and confetti toss. Here’s a sampling Scholastic posted for the masses.
Trixie’s voice is really changing over the years.
Sometimes Video Sunday will elegantly flow from one topic to another. Other days there’s a herky-jerky quality to it that leaps from topic to topic without any rhyme or reason. Such a day is today (it’s raining outside and I’m feeling antsy). In this next video, Margaret Atwood speaks about the future of book publishing. If you’ve a half an hour to spare it could be interesting.
Thanks to Nina Crews for the link.
My friend Meredith Arwady, one of the best operatic contraltos in the world (and if you don’t believe me believe the Times) gets to travel all of the globe performing. She also gets to see a lot of theatrical productions. Recently she informed me that the musical version of Matilda that some of you may have heard of not only lives up to the hype, it exceeds it. The production is currently attempting to make its way to the West End (after selling out entirely) and then (perhaps?) to Broadway. Fingers are crossed. Just this little trailer for it whets my whistle, it does.
Before the feminist movement in the 1960s, women writers struggled to be taken seriously in the literary world. Like many other professions, society used to consider writing a “man’s job,” so in order for a female writer to get published, she had to be exceptionally talented, courageous and determined.
Here are five women who not only defied the odds and refused to take “no” for an answer, but also consistently wrote about a woman’s role in society to help inspire other women to pick up a pen as well:
1. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
Woolf was known to be an innovative, modernist fiction writer, and some of her best work derives from her passion for women’s rights. She tended to write in a stream-of-consciousness style, and some common topics in her writing include personal relationships, women’s issues, philosophical issues, dealing with loss, and the power of memory to “sustain the human spirit.”
Possibly one of her most famous feminist essays is A Room of One’s Own, as well as Three Guineas, which was written to defend the education of women during the European fascism movement in the late 1930s.
In A Room of One’s Own Woolf writes:
“At the thought of all those women working year after year and finding it hard to get to thousand pounds together…we burst out in scorn at the reprehensive poverty of our sex. What had our mothers been doing then that they had no wealth to leave us? Powdering their noses? Looking in at shop windows? Flaunting in the sun at Monte Carlo?”
2. Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Austen was a profound English novelist who was actually homeschooled during her childhood, and was forced to remain anonymous as a writer during the last ten years of her life. Her novels tended to discuss various gender and social issues that were common in England during the 19th century, and many of her novels had female characters who were intelligent yet “economically vulnerable.”
Some examples include Sense and Sensibility, where the Dashwood sisters were forced into marriage after their father passed away, and in Pride and Prejudice, a mother tries to force marriage upon her daughters to wealthy suitors. Also in Mansfield Park, there is a specific focus on how single women are forced to become dependent on males.
3. George Eliot (1819-1880)
Eliot was considered to be one of the greatest British novelists of the 1800s, but many people at the time were unaware that her real name was actually Mary Ann Evans, and she decided to change her name to “George Eliot” just so people would buy her work. She had a passion for education and philosophy, but was forced to leave school at the age of 16 after her mother’s death, and later in life became a social outcast after she moved in with literary critic George Henry Lewes, (who at the time was married with three children).
Many of the characters in her novels depict a person who is forced to make important moral decisions, which could be in direct relation to her own experiences and tribulations.
Her most popular feminist writing to date is Silly Novels by Lady Novelists where Eliot actually calls out to her female readers in the hopes of inspiring them to write as well:
“When men see girls wasting their time in consultations about bonnets and ball dresses, and in giggling or sentimental love-confidences, or middle-aged women mismanaging their children, and solacing themselves with acrid gossip, they can hardly help saying, ‘For Heaven’s sake, let girls be better educated; let them have some better objects of thought – some more solid occupations.” Display CommentsAdd a Comment
Toronto To Japan is a Toronto-based collective of Canadian artists, musicians, writers, activists and business leaders organizing events to raise relief funds for victims of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan. On April 21st, they will be presenting Hope Blossoms, a night of entertainment inspired by the grand tradition of the Japanese variety show. Not only a fundraiser, this is a show of solidarity for the people of Japan. Among those participating are renowned authors Joy Kogawa, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. For more information, click here.