Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing

Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing

by Margaret Atwood
     
 

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What do we mean when we say that someone is a writer? Is he or she an entertainer? A high priest of the god Art? An improver of readers’ minds and morals? And who, for that matter, are these mysterious readers? In this wise and irresistibly quotable book, one of the most intelligent writers now working in English addresses the riddle of her art: why people…  See more details below

Overview

What do we mean when we say that someone is a writer? Is he or she an entertainer? A high priest of the god Art? An improver of readers’ minds and morals? And who, for that matter, are these mysterious readers? In this wise and irresistibly quotable book, one of the most intelligent writers now working in English addresses the riddle of her art: why people pursue it, how they view their calling, and what bargains they make with their audience, both real and imagined.
To these fascinating issues Margaret Atwood brings a candid appraisal of her own experience as well as a breadth of reading that encompasses everything from Dante to Elmore Leonard. An ambitious artistic inquiry conducted with unpretentiousness and charm, Negotiating with the Dead is an unprecedented insider’s view of the writer’s universe.

Editorial Reviews

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

bn.com
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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400032600
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/09/2003
Series:
Empson Lectures
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
367,146
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.51(d)

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.

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

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

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