Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood
* Prose. * Time Line. * Books of Poetry. * Books of Prose. * Novels. * Margaret Atwood essays.

Books of Poetry

Poems selected from her books:

Prose: Novels

Oryx and Crake

If you think bio-engineering is a good and well-controlled area, read this engrossing book and think again.

Short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2003, this satisfyingly apocalyptic "speculative" fiction is one of Margaret Atwood's best. The protagonist's wry sense of humor, in a world where he may be the last living human, relieves the terrors of the book (including being hunted by intelligent and freaky genetically engineered predators) and make it (despite other reviewers) LESS "grim and depressing" than Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. As the protagonist (Jimmy or Snowman) scavenges the little that remains of civilization, he remembers how his biotech world was smashed by the creative and dangerous genius, Crake (named ironically for an extinct animal).

Like others of her books (most notably "The Blind Assassin", her Booker Prize winner) this novel by Margaret Atwood works through a sequence of flashbacks. Here she uncovers the cause of the destruction as well as the origin of the genetically engineered Children of Crake. The latter look like humans, for the most part, but how much genetic engineering does it take, how much splicing of genetic features borrowed from other organisms, to make a human non-human?

Atwood's attention to words is a delight. One sees it in her own excellent writing, and in her many puns in the names of the products and organizations (HelthWyzer, Extinctathon, MaddAddam, RejoovenEsense, BlyssPluss), and in the words (berating, bemoaning, doldrums, lovelorn, leman, forsaken, queynt) that Jimmy says to himself because he can no longer say them with people who understand them.

The Year of the Flood: A Novel

May well be the best book read in 2009.

Anyone interested in the Fate of The World could be fascinated by Margaret Atwood's recent novel of 'speculative fiction' (her words). This is a pre-quel to her Oryx and Crake and is more accessible in that one sees the motivations and the developing story of the various groups. By contrast, Oryx and Crake, a 2003 Best Book, while also excellent, is madder and more puzzling to read. Both books end up in the same place, so either can be read first; they are both about deceit, deception, and the desire to be God. Remember [p.147]:
Illness is a design fault... It could be corrected.

When it becomes clearer that genetic engineering is toxifying:
The ratio of women to men fleeing the Corporations was roughly three to one. Nuala said it was because women were more ethical, Zeb said it was because they were more squeamish, and Philo said it amounted to the same thing. [p.247]

While it solves nothing permanently, the fight of a commune of women and children against some large testosterone-endowed ruffians is a joy [p.254].

This book is rightly praised by many, including novelist Jeanette Winterson, who writes:
In this strangely lonely book, where neither love nor romance changes the narrative, friendship of a real and lasting and risk-taking kind stands against the emotional emptiness of the money/sex/power/consumer world of CorpSEcorps, and as the proper antidote to the plague-mongering of Crake and Jimmy, for whom humankind holds so little promise.

Winterson's favorite Atwood genetic invention is (as is mine):
the liobam — a cross between a lion and a lamb, engineered by a lunatic fringe religious group that's tired of waiting for the prophecy of the lion lying down with the lamb to come true. Their own breed has curly golden hair and long, sharp canines, and will look at you very gently while it rips your throat out — which is pretty much the metaphor for the world of lethal paternalism created by CorpSEcorps.

The Penelopiad

If you are going to read The Odyssey this gives you a view of what Odysseus' faithful wife might have been doing with her life.

It was an intriguing reference in the brilliant Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey": A Biography by Alberto Manguel.

Atwood's uses the maids of Penelope and Odysseus' household as the equivalent as the Greek chorus and commentary, culminating in Chapter 24: "An Anthropology Lecture", which shows the maids to be:

The twelve moon-maidens, companions of Artemis, virginal but deadly goddess of the moon ... The thirteenth was our High Priestess, the incarnation of Artemis herself. She was none other than — yes! Queen Penelope!

Time Line

Born in Ottawa, Canada.

The Circle Game. Poems.

The Animals in That Country. Poems.

The Edible Woman.

The Journals of Susanna Moodie. Poems.
Procedures for Underground. Poems.

Power Politics. Poems.


You Are Happy. Poems.

The Handmaid's Tale.

The Handmaid's Tale short-listed for the 1986 Booker Prize.

Cat's Eye.

Cat's Eye short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize.

The Robber Bride.

Alias Grace; short-listed for the 1996 Booker Prize.

The Blind Assassin wins the 2000 Booker Prize.

Negotiating with the dead: a writer on writing (essays).

Oryx and Crake; short-listed for the 2003 Booker Prize.

The Penelopiad.

One of 48 women poets in 100 essential modern poems by women:

The Year of the Flood: A Novel.

Links and Books.

Links and Books.

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