Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing / Edition 1

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Overview

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 the development of her 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 seen fit to assume, what roles they have chosen to play. In her final chapter she takes up the challenge of the book's 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 and eclectic reference to other writers, living and dead, is balanced by anecdotes from her own experiences as a writer, 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In the spring of 2000, novelist and poet Margaret Atwood delivered the Empson Lectures at Cambridge University. Now, Cambridge University Press has gathered Atwood’s six memorable lectures into a delectable book. In Negotiating with the Dead, the Canadian-born author moves brightly between personal stories, literary judgments, and a sage inquiry into the role of the writer. Long a master and advocate of mischief, Atwood explains how the crafty disruption of prose transforms us all. Her insights make every reader a co-conspirator.
Library Journal
This book grew out of the series of Empsom lectures that prize-winning novelist Atwood gave at the University of Cambridge in 2000. In it, she addresses a number of fundamental questions: not how to write but the basic position of the writer, why a writer writes, "and for whom? And what is this writing anyway?" Wearing her learning lightly, Atwood allows her wit to shine on almost every page. She probes her life and work along with those of many other writers and brings in myths, fairy tales, movies whatever feeds her themes. Following an initial autobiographical chapter, Atwood addresses major issues: the duplicity evidently inherent in writing; the problems of art vs. money; the problems of art vs. social relevance; the nature of the triangular relationship of writer, reader, and book; and, in the final title chapter, the provocative idea that "all writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead." Atwood is not looking to provide answers or solutions but to explore the parameters of some interesting questions. The result is engaging food for thought for all who care about writers and writing. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. Mary Paumier Jones, Westminster P.L., CO Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“A delight. . . . Frank and spirited. . . . A clear-eyed glance into the shadows where writers work and live.” —The Washington Post Book World

“An engaging book—erudite yet informal, playfully witty yet down to earth.” —Los Angeles Times

“Smart, deeply humane, courageous. . . . I have never come across a single book that more elegantly goes to the heart of the craft and its demands. . . . Hooray for Atwood!” —Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun

“This amazing woman’s voice, this fine writer’s constant example, is extraordinary.” —The Boston Globe

“A delight. . . . Frank and spirited. . . . A clear-eyed glance into the shadows where writers work and live.” –The Washington Post Book World

“An engaging book–erudite yet informal, playfully witty yet down to earth.” –Los Angeles Times

“Smart, deeply humane, courageous. . . . I have never come across a single book that more elegantly goes to the heart of the craft and its demands. . . . Hooray for Atwood!” –Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun

“This amazing woman’s voice, this fine writer’s constant example, is extraordinary.” –The Boston Globe

“A refreshing change from other books on writing.” –Columbus Dispatch

“[Negotiating with the Dead] is what every reader wants, a learned distillation of world lit and myth as viewed by that endangered species, a working writer; 219 pages, each guaranteed entertaining, to say nothing of edifying.” –The Miami Herald

“Atwood is the leading Canadian author and one of the most eminent women writing in English. Neither category meant as much before she inhabited it. . . . [She] plunges into matters that have beguiled readers and writers since Gilgamesh engraved his story on a stone.” –The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A pleasure to read: erudite, talky, with a heady humour.” –Daily Telegraph

“Charming. . . . [Atwood] teases, probes, tickles, punches and enlightens. . . . She wades into mythology with . . . ease . . . and sweeps across Western literature with casual erudition. You get to see the muscle of her mind, in its leapfrogging and hopscotching, making strange and original connections veiled in playfulness. . . . Atwood is a writer who has scratched her name on the tablet of the English language. She belongs to the world.” –The Globe & Mail

“A bracing performance.” –Women’s Review of Books

“Engaging food for thought for all those wo care about writers and writing. . . . Atwood allows her wit to shine on almost every page.” –Library Journal

“Atwood’s style glistens with sharp details and sly wit. The range of references is deliciously eclectic.” –Quill and Quire

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521662604
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2002
  • Series: Empson Lectures Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 1,134,224
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret  Atwood
Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty books, including fiction, poetry, and essays. Her most recent works include the novels Oryx and Crake and the Booker Prize—winning The Blind Assassin as well as the collections Wilderness Tips and Good Bones and Simple Murders. Ms. Atwood lives in Toronto.

Biography

When Margaret Atwood announced to her friends that she wanted to be a writer, she was only 16 years old. It was Canada. It was the 1950s. No one knew what to think. Nonetheless, Atwood began her writing career as a poet. Published In 1964 while she was still a student at Harvard, her second poetry anthology, The Circle Game, was awarded the Governor General's Award, one of Canada's most esteemed literary prizes. Since then, Atwood has gone on to publish many more volumes of poetry (as well as literary criticism, essays, and short stories), but it is her novels for which she is best known.

Atwood's first foray into fiction was 1966's The Edible Woman, an arresting story about a woman who stops eating because she feels her life is consuming her. Grabbing the attention of critics, who applauded its startlingly original premise, the novel explored feminist themes Atwood has revisited time and time again during her long, prolific literary career. She is famous for strong, compelling female protagonists -- from the breast cancer survivor in Bodily Harm to the rueful artist in Cat's Eye to the fatefully intertwined sisters in her Booker Prize-winning novel The Blind Asassin.

Perhaps Atwood's most legendary character is Offred, the tragic "breeder" in what is arguably her most famous book, 1985's The Handmaid's Tale. Part fable, part science fiction, and part dystopian nightmare, this novel presented a harrowing vision of women's lives in an oppressive futuristic society. The Washington Post compared it (favorably) to George Orwell's iconic 1984.

As if her status as a multi-award-winning, triple-threat writer (fiction, poetry, and essays) were not enough, Atwood has also produced several children's books, including Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) and Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003) -- delicious alliterative delights that introduce a wealth of new vocabulary to young readers.

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    1. Hometown:
      Toronto, Ontario
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 18, 1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ottawa, Ontario
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Acclaimed author Margaret Atwood’s definitive look at the role of the writer.
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 the development of her writing career, Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors that writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain -- or excuse -- their activities, looking at what roles they have chosen to play.
Margaret Atwood’s wide and eclectic reference to other writers, living and dead, is balanced by personal anecdotes from her own experiences as a writer. The lightness of her touch is offset by a seriousness about the purpose and the pleasures of writing, and by a deep familiarity with the myths and traditions of western literature.

Author Biography: Throughout her thirty-five years of writing, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Her novel, The Blind Assassin, won the 2000 Booker Prize for Fiction. Her work has been published in more than thirty-five languages.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Orientation: who do you think you are? 2. Duplicity: the Jekyll hand, the Hyde hand, and the slippery double; 3. Dedication: the great god Pen; 4. Temptation: Prospero, the Wizard of Oz, Mephisto and Co; 5. Communion: nobody to nobody; 6. Descent: negotiating with the dead.

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