Atwood, Margaret (Vol. 84)
Margaret Atwood 1939–
(Full name Margaret Eleanor Atwood) Canadian poet, novelist, short story writer, critic, and author of children's books.
The following entry provides an overview of Atwood's career through 1994. For further information on her career and works, see CLC, Volumes 2, 3, 4, 8, 13, 15, 25, and 44.
Internationally acclaimed as a poet, novelist and short story writer, Margaret Atwood has emerged as a major figure in Canadian letters. Using such devices as irony, symbolism, and self-conscious narrators, she explores the relationship between humanity and nature, the dark side of human behavior, and power as it pertains to gender and politics. Popular with both literary scholars and the reading public, Atwood has helped to define and identify the goals of contemporary Canadian literature and has earned a distinguished reputation among feminist writers for her exploration of women's issues.
Atwood was born in Ottawa and grew up in suburban Toronto. As a child she spent her summers at her family's cottage in the wilderness of northern Quebec, where her father, a forest entomologist, conducted research. She first began to write while in high school, contributing poetry, short stories, and cartoons to the school newspaper. As an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, Atwood was influenced by critic Northrop Frye, who introduced her to the poetry of William Blake. Impressed with Blake's use of mythological imagery, Atwood published her first volume of poetry, Double Persephone, in 1961. In 1962 Atwood completed her A.M. degree at Radcliffe College of Harvard University. She returned to Toronto in 1963, where she began collaborating with artist Charles Pachter, who designed and illustrated several volumes of her poetry. In 1964 Atwood moved to Vancouver, where she taught English at the University of British Columbia for a year and completed her first novel, The Edible Woman (1969). After a year of teaching Victorian and American literature at Sir George Williams University in Montreal in 1967, Atwood began teaching creative writing at the University of Alberta while continuing to write and publish poetry. Her poetry collection The Circle Game (1966) won the 1967 Governor General's Award, Canada's highest literary honor. Atwood's public visibility increased significantly with the publication of Power Politics in 1971. Requiring an escape from increasing media attention, Atwood left a teaching position at the University of Toronto to move to a farm near Alliston, Ontario, with her husband, Graeme Gibson. Atwood received the Governor General's Award in 1986 for her novel The Handmaid's Tale, which was published that same year. She continues to be a prominent voice in Canada's cultural and political life.
Since 1961 Atwood has produced a highly acclaimed body of work that includes fiction, poetry, and literary criticism. The Circle Game established the major themes of Atwood's writing: inconsistencies of self-perception, the paradoxical nature of language, the issue of Canadian identity, and conflicts between humankind and nature. In the same year that she published her second novel, Surfacing (1972), Atwood also earned widespread attention for Survival (1972), a seminal critical analysis of Canadian literature that served as a rallying point for the country's cultural nationalists. In the poetry collection The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), Atwood devoted her attention to what she calls the schizoid, or double, nature of Canada. Based on the autobiographies of a Canadian pioneer woman, The Journals of Susanna Moodie examines why Canadians came to develop ambivalent feelings toward their country. Atwood further developed this dichotomy in Power Politics, in which she explores the relationship between sexual roles and power structures by focusing on personal relationships. Atwood's novels explore the relationship between personal behavior and political issues as well. These include Lady Oracle (1976), about a protagonist who fakes her own death and thereby creates a new life for herself; The Handmaid's Tale, a dystopian novel concerning an oppressive future society; Cat's Eye (1990), a coming-of-age novel that contains autobiographical elements; and The Robber Bride (1993), a contemporary recasting of a folktale, which explores jealousy and sexual manipulation.
Criticism of Atwood's work has tended to emphasize her political and social views. Many critics identify her use of grotesque, shocking imagery and heavy irony as hallmarks of her style. Because her poetry and fiction often portray physical and psychological violence in relationships between men and women, some commentators have labeled Atwood pessimistic and dismissed her as little more than an ideologue, but other critics have found her a visionary interpreter of feminist thought. The Handmaid's Tale, for example, has been favorably compared with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and other distinguished dystopian novels for its disturbing extension of contemporary trends and its allegorical portrait of political extremism. The many critics who praise Atwood's work admire her spareness of language, emotional restraint, and willingness to examine the harsh realities of both society and the natural world.
Double Persephone (poetry) 1961
The Circle Game (poetry) 1966
The Animals in That Country (poetry) 1968
The Edible Woman (novel) 1969
The Journals of Susanna Moodie (poetry) 1970
Procedures for Underground (poetry) 1970
Power Politics (poetry) 1971
Surfacing (novel) 1972
Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (criticism) 1972
You Are Happy (poetry) 1974
Lady Oracle (novel) 1976
Selected Poems (poetry) 1976
Dancing Girls, and Other Stories (short stories) 1977
Two-Headed Poems (poetry) 1978
Up in the Tree (juvenilia) 1978
Life before Man (novel) 1979
True Stories (poetry) 1981
Bodily Harm (novel) 1982
Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (criticism) 1982
Bluebeard's Egg (short stories) 1983
Murder in the Dark: Short Fictions and Prose Poems (short stories and poetry) 1983
Interlunar (poetry) 1984
The Handmaid's Tale (novel) 1986
Selected Poems II: Poems Selected and New, 1976–1986 (poetry) 1987
Cat's Eye (novel) 1990
Wilderness Tips (short stories) 1991
Good Bones (short stories) 1992
The Robber Bride (novel) 1993
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SOURCE: "'After the Failure of Logic': Descent and Return in Surfacing," in her Madness and Sexual Politics in the Feminist Novel, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1978, pp. 91-115.
[In the following excerpt, Rigney discusses the theme of discovering the self through descent and return in Atwood's Surfacing.]
It is inevitable for Margaret Atwood's nameless protagonist of Surfacing that there should occur a "failure of logic," for her journey "home" is an exploration of a world beyond logic. Her quest, like that of Jane Eyre, Clarissa Dalloway, and Martha Quest Hesse, is for an identity, a vision of self. She must find that self—not only through the father for whom she searches the Canadian backwoods, but also through the mother for whom she must search in the depths of her own psyche.
Atwood, much like Virginia Woolf, juxtaposes and compares two internal worlds: the world of the male principle, characterized by rationality and logic but often also by cruelty and destruction, and the world of the female principle, which for Atwood implies an existence beyond reason, a realm of primitive nature where there are connections between life and death, suffering and joy, madness and true sanity, where opposites are resolved into wholes. A failure to recognize these connections is a failure to perceive the "female" part of one's self, and this results, for Atwood, in a...
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SOURCE: "Refusing to be a Victim: Margaret Atwood," in her Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest, Beacon Press, 1980, pp. 41-53.
[In the following essay, Christ offers an analysis of Surfacing, focusing on the protagonist's quest for self-discovery and Atwood's focus on nature and power in the novel.]
The spiritual quest of the unnamed protagonist of Surfacing begins with her return to the Canadian wilderness, where she had lived as a child. Ostensibly, the protagonist is in search of her missing father, who is presumed dead. But the search is really for her missing parents, her mother having died a few years earlier, and for the power she feels it was their duty to have communicated to her. The external detective story of the protagonist's search for her father is paralleled by an internal search—half obscured by her obsession with her father—to discover how she lost the ability to feel. The scene of the mystery is strewn with false clues from her fictitious memories, which she created to shield herself from the pain of confronting her true past. While the protagonist's interest remains focused on her father's disappearance, the reader struggles to make sense of the inconsistencies in her story about her marriage, husband, and child. Why couldn't she return home after the wedding? Why did she hide the child from her parents? Why is she obsessed with the bizarre...
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SOURCE: "Margaret Atwood: Remythologizing Circe," in her Women as Mythmakers: Poetry and Visual Art by Twentieth Century Women, Indiana University Press, 1984, pp. 62-78.
[In the following essay, Lauter examines Atwood's revision of the myth of Odysseus and Circe in her "Circe/Mud Poems."]
In her sequence of poems entitled "Circe/Mud Poems," Margaret Atwood engages in a complex act of remythologizing. That is, she steps back into the mythic realm of Homer's Odyssey to recreate and revise the story of the year-long sojourn of Odysseus with Circe from Circe's point of view. Simply by refocusing our attention within the story, Atwood reveals a more essential power in Circe than her infamous ability to seduce and deform men—namely, her highly developed capacity to see, see into, and see beyond her relationships to the persons, things, and events called "reality." Because Atwood shows how Circe exercises her capacity for insight, we are able to penetrate the masks and armor of the "hero with a thousand faces," and understand with her how the myth of the quest has become a disease in whose clutches the hero is helpless. By adopting Circe's perspective within the quest myth, Atwood is able to revalue Circe positively; at the same time, she exposes the limitations of a myth that still dominates Western civilization. Atwood's strategy of participating in mythic thinking, instead of making the usual...
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SOURCE: "Dying Falls," in London Review of Books, Vol. 9, No. 14, July 23, 1987, pp. 24, 26.
[In the following excerpt, Lanchester provides a mixed assessment of the short story collection Bluebeard's Egg.]
[The endings of Margaret Atwood's fiction] tend to leave things slightly in the air, and to present themselves to the reader for interpretation. The dystopian fantasy of The Handmaid's Tale was followed by a framing fiction—of the kind that is more usually put in front of a narrative—which pretended that what we had just read had been the material presented at an academic conference, centuries after the events depicted. The academic ended with a question: 'Are there any questions?' Many of the stories in Bluebeard's Egg implicitly ask the same thing.
The material treated in Bluebeard's Egg is largely conventional, consisting as it does of relationships of one kind or another (parents in the stories which begin and end the collection, elsewhere first boyfriends, ex-lovers, new husbands: the usual). Her narrators are constantly interpreting themselves, their pasts and their relationships—a business that often goes on ruefully and after-the-event. The ideas behind this interest in the act of interpretation have been around for a little while now, and Atwood's focus on the subject is not flame-belchingly original. But the subject is an important one for her for...
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SOURCE: "Formal Allegiances: Selected Poems × 6," in The Kenyon Review, n.s. Vol. X, No. 3, Summer, 1988, pp. 127-46.
[In the excerpt below, Smith offers a mixed review of Atwood's Selected Poems II.]
Among American readers Margaret Atwood is Canadian literature. She has published a book annually for more than two decades, deploying a strong historical consciousness, a rich narrative imagination, and a willingness to use formal literary expression to confront whatever wrongs human dignity and freedom. Her accomplishments have been manifest in best-selling fiction, in literary criticism (the often cited Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature suggests her range), and in ten books of poetry beginning with The Circle Game in 1966. Many readers consider her foremost a poet. The simultaneous republication of her 1978 volume Selected Poems 1965–1975 with her 1987 Selected Poems II: Poems Selected and New 1976–1986 may do more than confuse readers with over-lapping titles. It may raise questions about how often Margaret Atwood has written successful poetry.
An Atwood poem is an intense sermonic in shortish, spare lines that whip domestic dramas and wilderness imagery down the page. Deliberately unliterary, its righteousness puts a finger in the middle of your chest. The results are predictable: a mixture of exhilaration, irritation, and...
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SOURCE: "Odd Woman Out," in The Women's Review of Books, Vol. VI, Nos. 10-11, July 1989, pp. 3-4.
[Yglesias is an American-born educator and novelist whose works include How She Died (1972), Family Feeling (1976), and Sweetsir (1981). In the following review, Yglesias praises Atwood's style and commitment to issues, but finds the novel Cat's Eye an uneven work.]
The successful publication of The Handmaid's Tale transformed the distinguished Canadian poet and prose writer Margaret Atwood into a world-class, internationally acclaimed, best-selling writer—to use some of publishing's most favored phrases. Her next novel, Cat's Eye, inevitably became an occasion for critics to weigh and measure this current work against the brilliant evocation of a repressively anti-woman dystopia depicted in The Handmaid's Tale. Those looking for a falling off found it. Though Cat's Eye has been sufficiently well-marketed and praised, placing Atwood once again on the best-seller list, reviewers have also expressed disappointment. (Sharon Thompson in the Village Voice, Vivian Gornick in New York Woman are only two examples.)
Why this carping? Atwood's oeuvre is astonishingly varied, copious and good. Beginning publication in 1961 with a book of poems, she continued with other works of poetry, a solid body of short fiction, and seven...
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SOURCE: "Comic Storytelling as Escape and Narcissistic Self-Expression in Atwood's Lady Oracle," in his The Empathic Reader: A Study of the Narcissistic Character and the Drama of the Self, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989, pp. 154-168.
[In the following excerpt, Bouson explores the psychology of the protagonist in Lady Oracle.]
Margaret Atwood's Lady Oracle has tantalized, amused, and baffled critics who are fascinated with its duplicitous, protean narrator-heroine. "The task of fitting the pieces of the puzzle together, the puzzle of Joan Foster," writes one critic, "is left to the reader." As Joan narrates the story of her life and exposes her narcissistic anxieties, hurts, and rage, she is undeniably funny. But even while we laugh at her comic descriptions of her mother-dominated childhood, her childhood obesity, her recurring fat lady fantasies, and her troubled relationships with men, we are aware that her comedic voice "covers a prolonged scream of pain." Like the opera singer, Joan wants to "stand up there in front of everyone and shriek as loud" as possible "about hatred and love and rage and despair," to "scream at the top" of her lungs "and have it come out music." The kind of storyteller we've encountered before, Joan wants to seduce her listeners, compel their attention. Creating a character who amuses and disarms, keeping reader attention riveted on Joan, Atwood...
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SOURCE: "Waltzing Again: A Conversation with Margaret Atwood," in Margaret Atwood: Conversations, Ontario Review Press, 1990, pp. 234-38.
[In the following interview, Atwood discusses her relationship to her readers and critics of her works as well as the themes of Cat's Eye.]
[Ingersoll]: Since as you know I've been working on a collection of your interviews, could we begin by talking about interviews? You have been interviewed very frequently. How do you feel about being interviewed?
[Atwood]: I don't mind "being interviewed" any more than I mind Viennese waltzing—that is, my response will depend on the agility and grace and attitude and intelligence of the other person. Some do it well, some clumsily, some step on your toes by accident, and some aim for them. I've had interviews that were pleasant and stimulating experiences for me, and I've had others that were hell. And of course you do get tired of being misquoted, quoted out of context, and misunderstood. You yourself may be striving for accuracy (which is always complicated), whereas journalists are striving mainly for hot copy, the more one-dimensional the better. Not all of them of course, but enough.
I think the "Get the Guest" or "David and Goliath" interview tends to become less likely as you age; the interviewer less frequently expects you to prove you're a real writer, or a real woman, or any of...
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SOURCE: "In Pursuit of the Faceless Stranger: Depths and Surfaces in Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm," in Studies in Canadian Literature, Vol. 15, No. 1, 1990, pp. 76-93.
[In the following essay, Lucking discusses the motifs of depth and surface in relation to Atwood's "thematic concern with the quest for authentic selfhood" in Bodily Harm.]
Margaret Atwood's recurrent use of the descent motif to dramatize her thematic concern with the quest for authentic selfhood makes her work a tempting target for explication in terms of the initiatory archetype as this has been analyzed by such writers as C.G. Jung, Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell. This aspect of her writing has come in for considerable attention on the part of critics who, like the novelist herself, experienced the impact of Northrop Frye's theories concerning the relationship between myth and literature in the late fifties and sixties. At the same time, the irony implicit in Atwood's repeated use of what has been described as a "basic romance structure" involving a "symbolic journey to an underground prison" has also not escaped notice, and critics such as Frank Davey put us on our guard against the tendency to "mistake novels which deconstruct archetypes for novels which confirm them." There can be no doubt that there is a complex interplay, amounting at points almost to a formal dialectical tension, between the underlying structure of this...
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SOURCE: "Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye: Re-Viewing Women in a Postmodern World," in Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, Vol. 22, No. 4, October, 1991, pp. 17-27.
[In the following essay, Ingersoll analyzes what he perceives as the autobiographical elements in Cat's Eye.]
Although one finds evidence of postmodernism in the manipulation of popular forms such as the Gothic in Lady Oracle and science fiction in The Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye is Margaret Atwood's first full-fledged "postmodern" work. Always the wily evader of critics' pigeonholes, Atwood, in a recent interview, has denied the classification of her work as "postmodern." She expresses her own amused disdain towards the critical-academic world for its attraction to "isms" in the discourse of Cat's Eye when Elaine Risley visits the gallery where her retrospective show is to be mounted. Risley dismisses the paintings still on display: "I don't give a glance to what's still on the walls, I hate those neo-expressionist dirty greens and putrid oranges, post this, post that. Everything is post these days, as if we're just a footnote to something earlier that was real enough to have a name of its own." At the same time, this novel is clearly Atwood's most postmodern in its play with form—the fictional autobiography—and in its continual self-referentiality as a text.
At the centre of this...
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SOURCE: "'Lady Oracle': The Politics of the Body," in Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, Vol. 22, No. 4, October, 1991, pp. 29-48.
[In the following essay, Patton analyzes Atwood's use of goddess mythology in Lady Oracle.]
I search instead for the others
the ones left over,
the ones who have escaped from these
mythologies with barely their lives
Margaret Atwood wrote these words as if they were spoken by the Circe persona in the "Circe/Mud Poems" section of her book of poetry called You Are Happy. Atwood's career as poet, storyteller, and critic has been a coming to terms with "these mythologies," a general term for myths about women and myths about gender relations which have been inscribed in our literature. Her career has been also a search for an escape from "these mythologies." Although numerous critics have analyzed Atwood's work with myths about women, their readings have been limited to primarily psychological interpretations. For the many women who have escaped "with barely their lives," however, cultural myths about women are very much a form of "power politics." To do justice to Atwood's work, we must look beyond psychology to the politics of her work with—and against—myth.
By far the most potent myth in Atwood's...
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SOURCE: "The Hairball on the Mantlepiece," in The New York Times Book Review, November 24, 1991, p. 7.
[Wilcox is an American-born short story writer and novelist whose works include Modern Baptists (1983), North Gladiola (1985), and Miss Undine's Living Room (1987). In the following review, Wilcox generally praises Atwood's Wilderness Tips, but finds some of the prose awkward and over-mannered.]
In "Hack Wednesday," one of the most engaging stories in Margaret Atwood's third volume of short fiction, Wilderness Tips, a middle-aged newspaper columnist sizes up men in an unusual way: "She can just look at a face and see in past the surface, to that other—child's—face which is still there. She has seen Eric [her husband] in this way, stocky and freckled and defiant, outraged by schoolyard lapses from honor." This uncanny ability applies just as well to Margaret Atwood herself. Almost every one of the 10 stories in this collection superimposes the past upon the present in an unsettling, often startling manner, which conjures up a sense of the mysterious in even the most banal relationships.
The first story, "True Trash," a deceptively easygoing coming-of-age tale, accustoms us to the author's bold leaps in time. Set mainly in a summer camp on an island in Ontario's Georgian Bay, "True Trash" gives us a leisurely account of teen-age waitresses' fitful...
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SOURCE: "Time Telescoping Tales," in The Christian Science Monitor, December 27, 1991, p. 14.
[In the following review of Wilderness Tips, Rubin praises Atwood's ability to function as a "barometer" of the social climate of present and past decades in her writing, but faults her work for "a lack of energy and élan."]
I find it hard to dislike Margaret Atwood's fiction, or even to offer serious criticism of it. Thoughtfully feminist, ecologically sensitive, a clear-eyed observer of social trends from urban alienation to rural isolation, Atwood is one of those writers who seem to function as barometers of their times.
One seldom feels one has wasted one's time in reading her. Often, one comes away from her work with a memorable insight or two. But I cannot say that I approach a new Margaret Atwood novel or story collection with a keen sense of anticipatory pleasure or excitement. Something about her gray, flat style communicates a damp, cold feeling of weariness, which is not simply the effect of her commitment to exposing the sometimes-depressing truth about living on an exploited, violence-prone planet, but also a lack of energy and élan in the way she does what she does.
Born in Ottawa in 1939, Atwood published her first book of poems in 1961, and now has about a dozen volumes of poetry to her credit. But it was the appearance of her novels throughout the...
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SOURCE: "The Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye and Interlunar: Margaret Atwood's Feminist (?) Futures (?)," in Narrative Strategies in Canadian Literature: Feminism and Postcolonialism, edited by Coral Ann Howells and Lynette Hunter, Open University Press, 1991, pp. 93-107.
[In the following essay, LeBihan analyzes the narrative technique and major themes in The Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye and some of the poems in Interlunar.]
Margaret Atwood is nothing if not formidable in her utilization of different forms in her writing. Her two latest novels are strikingly different from one another in terms of the formal traditions within which they might be placed. Cat's Eye is a woman painter's cynical retrospective principally on her relationships with other women and feminism. The Handmaid's Tale is most often labelled 'feminist dystopian'. I intend to call into question the use of this title here, for the way in which it has been employed to place Atwood's novel against the mainstream of fiction, conveniently reading the location and label as marginalizing. Marginalization then becomes construed as having the function of undermining the subversive effects of the text. In what follows, I will suggest some alternative readings of location, which offer the possibility of serious challenges to mainstream thought from places other than from the conventional centres of power.
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SOURCE: "The Atwood Variations," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4675, November 6, 1992, p. 20.
[In the following review, Kemp praises Good Bones as a "sample-case of Atwood's sensuous and sardonic talents."]
Pocket-sized and with sturdy covers, Good Bones looks a bit like a sketchbook in which an artist might jot caricatures, cartoons, preliminary studies, trial pieces and quick little exercises in catching the essence of a subject or delineating it from unusual angles. The miscellany with which Margaret Atwood fills its pages is, in fact, a writer's equivalent of this: a collection of lively verbal doodlings, smartly dashed off vignettes and images that are inventively enlarged, titled, turned upside down. Playing with the conventions of her narrative craft is a frequent pastime. Fiction's motives and motifs are outlined with witty flourish.
"Bad News", the opening piece, is a fantasia about the appeal of disaster tales. It's followed by a monologue in which The Little Red Hen, clucking with indignation, retells the story of her thrifty response to the grain of wheat as a cautionary tale of put-upon domesticity. Elsewhere, Gertrude gives her version of what happens in Hamlet, and an Ugly Sister and a Wicked Stepmother put in a good word for themselves. Political correctness is lampooned in "There Was Once", as the reciting of a standard fairy-tale gets...
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SOURCE: "Reading Reflections: The Autobiographical Illusion in Cat's Eye," in Essays on Life Writing: From Genre to Critical Practice, edited by Marlene Kadar, University of Toronto Press, 1992, pp. 162-70.
[In the following essay, Cooke explores Atwood's use of a fictional protagonist and an autobiographical form in Cat's Eye.]
I have been told by friends, relatives, colleagues, and teachers—in fact, by everyone I know who has read it—that Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye is 'more autobiographical than her other books.' And, of course, they are right. It is more autobiographical—or, anyway, it is more obviously about self-representation—than her other books. But it is autobiographical in the same way that Lady Oracle is gothic: it speaks to the form as much as it speaks from or within it.
The fascinating part about all this is that those experienced readers who would be embarrassed to classify Lady Oracle as just another costume gothic, or Surfacing as a simple unironic quest narrative, are the very same readers who seem to dismiss this novel by describing it as 'autobiographical.' They have been fooled by Atwood—yes—but also by the literary conventions she is exploring in this novel, those of autobiography itself. Most important, they have been fooled into looking at the autobiographical illusion that Atwood creates, and into...
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SOURCE: "Mirror, Mirror, Who's the Evilest?" in Newsweek, Vol. CXXII, No. 19, November 8, 1993, p. 81.
[In the following review, Shapiro praises Atwood's novel The Robber Bride.]
Nobody maps female psychic territory the way Margaret Atwood does, sure-footed even in the wilds. Her latest novel, The Robber Bride takes its title from the Grimm fairy tale about the robber bridegroom who kidnaps maidens and carries them off to his house to be cut up and eaten. Here the malevolent suitor is a woman named Zenia, mysterious and alluring, who insinuates herself into other women's lives and carries off their husbands and boyfriends. If they're lucky, they escape.
At the center of the book are three women, longtime friends who became so after Zenia slashed and burned her way through each of their lives. Zenia herself lurks just out of sight until close to the end, when each of the women confronts her—and in her, their own worst demons. The three are classic Atwood creations, so vivid and idiosyncratic they could live next door, while perfectly evoking their time (now) and place (big Canadian city with a university). There's Tony, the maverick military historian enthralled by the human face of war, who lectures on such topics as fly-front fastenings and their effect on speed and efficiency in battle. There's Roz, the rich but desperately insecure business-woman. If only she were...
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SOURCE: "On the Villainess," in San Francisco Review of Books, February-March, 1994, pp. 30-32, 34.
[In the following excerpt, Atwood discusses her writing process and the role of the literary villainess in reference to her book The Robber Bride.]
[Miller]: In The Robber Bride, your character Zenia is cruel, cold-blooded and calculated, so able to manipulate the female protagonists in the book …
[Atwood]:… And the male …
In a recent New York Times article you said there has been a gap in the literary appearance of the villainess. Has this been particularly on the part of women writers, and have you met any resistance to Zenia from feminists?
No. There is a whole list of manipulative characters, some of them written by women. We need go back no further than Edith Wharton. Have you read The Custom of the Country?
No, I haven't.
Well, you should. (She laughs.) It is about a manipulative, social climbing woman who steps on the bodies of all the men she climbs over. Also The House of Mirth, about an extremely evil women, the adulterer's wife, who essentially destroys the heroine of this book. So there are several such characters; when I was talking about it, it was that this character had disappeared in the fifties. I was at a feminist conference called 'Women...
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Banerjee, Chinmoy. "Atwood's Time: Hiding Art in Cat's Eye." Modern Fiction Studies 36, No. 4 (Winter 1990): 513-22.
Discusses the various narrative voices Atwood uses in Cat's Eye.
Bayley, John. "Dry Eyes." London Review of Books 13, No. 23 (5 December 1991): 20.
Compares the stories in Atwood's Wilderness Tips favorably to the works of Nadine Gordimer and Elizabeth Bowen.
Beaver, Harold. Review of Selected Poems II: Poems Selected and New, 1976–1986, by Margaret Atwood. The New York Times Book Review (3 April 1988): 12.
Praises Atwood's insights into women's issues in Selected Poems II.
Berne, Suzanne. "Watch Your Back." Belles Lettres 7, No. 1 (Fall 1991): 43.
Positive review of Wilderness Tips noting Atwood's "wry [and] disdainful" authorial voice.
Birch, Dinah. "Post Feminism." The London Review of Books II, No. 2 (19 January 1989): 3, 5.
Explores Atwood's Cat's Eye and Interlunar as expressions of the author's "personal postfeminism" and praises Atwood's insights about the nature of suffering....
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