Saturday, October 18, 2008

Massey Lecture with Margaret Atwood

Last night I got to listen to one of our country's literary icons, Margaret Atwood. It was a Massey Lecture and the topic was debt - not a financial how-to, but a literary how-it-was. Dicken's Scrooge was a central character in her discussion of how the 19th century was full of money talk.  Massey Lectures are recorded for CBC radio's program called Ideas. Past lecturers have included Martin Luther King, Doris Lessing and Stephen Lewis.

I'll admit I haven't enjoyed all of Atwood's works. But The Robber Bride (1993),  Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin (2000) are up there with my favorites. I also really enjoyed reading Rosemary Sullivan's biography of Atwood called The Red Shoes: Margaret Atwood Starting Out (1998). Atwood became a writer through determination and lots and lots of hard work. 

I just glanced though my copy of The Red Shoes and noticed I'd underlined this statement by Sullivan in the introduction, "...I am fascinated by the mystery of artistic confidence. Where does the strength come from to believe in yourself as a writer?"  In the afterword, Sullivan writes, "Writing was a matter of discipline: of emptying the mind of everything and letting it fill with whatever fiction, poetry, or prose she was working on."  She hired a babysitter when the kids were young.  Her three priorities were family, writing and the environment. 

I'm skimming through this book, even as I write this blog and now I notice another statement by Atwood that I'd underlined.  "A family and writing is OK, even a job and writing is OK. But a job, a family, and writing is not on. Only two of the three is manageable."

Okay, so I must struggle with the three. At least my kids are growing up (ie. I'm getting old) and my job is basically a daily four hour walk - involving my body and not my mind.  I've loved being a parent, and I'm almost sad to see these years end, ... note the word almost. They'll always be my kids - even when they've moved on. (They will move on, right?)

So, yes, I got to see and hear Margaret Atwood last night. She's a pretty amazing woman. And she did it all through WORDS. So it's just a matter of arranging them in the right order ...

4 comments:

Barrie said...

I would give my right arm to hear Margaret Atwood speak. Well, not my right arm, LITERALLY. But, you get my drift... Was she at all humourous?

gabe said...

Yes, she was in a low key sort of way - especially at the end when it was question period. Perhaps the right term is 'sardonic wit'.

Anita Daher said...

Great post, Gabe. I can so relate :-)
p.s. Those are my favourite books of hers as well--those, and Oryx and Crake.
p.p.s. I was there too! The room was hot and stuffy. She was not.

gabe said...

Oryx and Crake - it's on my shelf ... just not there yet ... and I know, I should have read it by now!