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chrisbean (Cambridge, MA)

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Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing
Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing
by Margaret Atwood
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

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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