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Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing Paperback – Sep 9 2003

3.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Anchor (Sept. 9 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400032601
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400032600
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.3 x 20.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,541,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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3.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the finest books on writing I have read, and I've read a few! This is a readers' guide to writing, the depth and breadth of literary reference is nothing short of astounding. From Old English to current day references, Atwood is at her singular best here; she intersects/dissects and delivers, often in hilarious juxtapose, insights on the reader, the writing, the author and the book with her usual incredibly frank and honest prose, all sorts of revelations which border on on the startling, of life behind the desk. It's an incredible journey of the English language in print and the difficulties in wrestling that print to the page. Bravo, Atwood. Although this book might be considered a little dated, buy it anyway. It's a treasure for your library. I keep going back to it. As will you.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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