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Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing [Paperback]

2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Graduate-level Course in 220 pages Aug. 30 2003
By A Customer
I just finished reading this book--twice!--and may just read it again. An intelligent, provocative, and very funny discussion of life lived in the writing realm. Each of Atwood's chapters could support a book-length volume of its own. Her ability to cross the boundaries of time, genres, genders, the human and the divine is astonishing. She is genius.
The back matter--notes, bibliography, acknowledgments, and index--are invaluable, and if you'd like you could launch a lifetime of study just using her references as the guidepost. This book has gotten me excited again about literature--a dive deep into the profound waters, far from the frothy, frivolous "acclaimed" writing that has increasingly made me feel so discouraged and alienated.
No, this is not a how-to. This is a wondering-how-and-why.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars vitally relevant Sept. 9 2002
Battles that were "long since resolved" do not lose their relevancy simply because the matter is no longer front page news. I waited nearly two years for this book's publication, and having read, loved, and laughed out loud over such lectures as "Spotty-Handed Villainess" on Atwood's web site, and having had the recent honor of seeing her speak at Radcliffe, was not disappointed. Any serious reader knows how heavily and intelligently Atwood draws upon and subverts the conventions of fairy tales and especially of 19th century gothic novels; after all, she did years upon years of postgraduate work at both Radcliffe and Harvard in exactly that literary period and genre. With novels as dense and intelligent as Atwood's, did anyone honestly expect a critical, scholarly text by her would be a fun read? Any aspiring writer (or non-passive reader, for that matter) who has not mastered the canon--and the history behind it--won't go far. How can anything new be created if you aren't capable of recognizing what's alredy been done, and playing with conventions with the knowledge that they are conventions, and how they've been used in the past? I can't believe I'm using this analogy, but if you watch the Simpsons without a basic knowledge of American pop culture, you won't get the joke. Nearly everything written after 1950 has some kind of basic postmodern, intertextual play going on somewhere. I am American, and wasn't even alive in the 60s or 70s, and even I know that a basic grasp of literary history (including the impact of the feminism on literature) is vital to any writing life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Re ridiculous, libelous review below. July 12 2002
By A Customer
I felt compelled to write this review because of a previous reviewer's slanderous and ignorant comment that Margaret Atwood is an alcoholic. I am familiar with the arts community in Toronto and so can say with absolute certainty that this is untrue. This is a scholarly and beautiful text culled from a series of lectures and should be read as such. I suppose that if you believe, as another reviewer did, that being a writer does not require familiarity with the body of English literature then this is not the book for you. But if, as I did, you found that comment ridiculous and sad- then consider this text.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Part of a Great Tradition April 24 2003
By A Customer
You have to wonder if most of the previous reviewers of this book have actually read any of Atwood's fiction. If they had, they would have known the kinds of topics that interest her and that she might pursue in lectures about her career as a writer. It's hard to imagine, for example, criticizing Atwood for drawing references from 19th century literature. I see this book as following in the tradition of Virginia Woolf and Eudora Welty, by combining stories about the author's life as a woman with her reflections on what it has meant to write fiction of the highest order.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Successfully inhaled more Atwood prose Nov. 11 2002
I have collected M.E. Atwood books for years now, and it was by accident that I came across Negotiating with the Dead in the academic section of my university's bookstore. Sure, it's not a novel or book of poems, but if it has her name on it, I buy it. I wasn't dissapointed. I love MEA's characters and stories, and now I love her take on literary aspirations and operations. Her refreshing, cynical angle on this field was inspiring and very interesting. Buy this book if you love Atwood, but also if you love writing and don't know why you do.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Margaret Laurence, NOT Margaret Atwood... July 1 2002
By jp
I feel the need to respond to reader "Liz," who believes that the author's "alcholism" [sic] was to blame for her disappointment in this book. Liz clearly confuses Margaret Atwood for Margaret LAURENCE, the brilliant and troubled Canadian writer who committed suicide in 1983. Atwood is alive, well, and (according to all reliable reports) in no way suffering from "alcholism." I would respectfully suggest that a little more scholarship and considerably less judgmental commentary (not to mention careful proofreading) are in order before posting reviews on Amazon.com.
As a longtime fan of Atwood's work and as a writer myself, I found her insight fascinating, though I can understand the disappointment some readers felt; this is not a handbook or a how-to, it's an intellectual memoir and will consequently be a let-down for many. But if you are curious about analysis and process more than in absolutes, there is much here to interest and entertain. Atwood-the-writer can seem remote in her fiction; here she is personable and humane. Anyone who has put pen to paper will recognize and value much that is to be found in this volume.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars horrible, horrible, horrible
You know those reviewers who wish they could give it zero stars? Yeah, I'm one of those now. I got this book for an Individualized Writing class, and it gives memoirs a bad name. Read more
Published on July 15 2003 by karenceleste
1.0 out of 5 stars A Waste of time and money
I was so disappointed in this book - it's very egotistical in assuming we really care about the author's memories of her bell-bottom hippy days - very little about actual writing... Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring and Depressing
Boring and depressing and really not much help to anyone who wants advice on the art of writing. More of a memoir and not much of one at that. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2002 by Bob Foster
1.0 out of 5 stars It was the whiskey talking...
I can't but feel that Margaret Atwood's alcholism is truly having an impact on her work: Negotiating With the Dead is a jumble in thought and the prose is filled with cliche and... Read more
Published on April 19 2002 by Liz
2.0 out of 5 stars Banal and tedious
What a disappointment. Instead of the insightful observations Atwood is capable of -- and I have heard her speak -- this book is a mishmash of cutesy comments and esoteric... Read more
Published on April 3 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars Another purchase i did not research well enough.
I purchased this book, looking for insight, wisdom, and a bit of advice from someone who has been around the writing block a little while. Read more
Published on April 2 2002 by Steven D Lorey
1.0 out of 5 stars Gobbledegook!
When I first picked up Negotiating with the Dead, I was excited about the insights one of the masters of the writing craft might be willing to share. Read more
Published on March 18 2002 by A reader
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