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Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (2002)

by Margaret Atwood

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1,2822611,484 (3.78)66
"Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors which writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain their activities, looking at what costumes they have seen fit to assume, what roles they have chosen to play. In her final chapter she takes up the challenge of the book's title: if a writer is to be seen as 'gifted', who is doing the giving and what are the terms of the gift?" "Margaret Atwood's wide and eclectic reference to other writers, living and dead, is balanced by anecdotes from her own experiences as a writer, both in Canada and on the international scene. The lightness of her touch is underlined by a seriousness about the purpose and the pleasures of writing, and by a deep familiarity with the myths and traditions of western literature."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
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» See also 66 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Plus a half star. It would have been fabulous to be at her lectures on which the book was based. The philosophy was less convincing on the page but the moments of personal experience were touching. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jan 23, 2021 |
Very interesting, learned, but easy to read and funny at times. I’d recommend this to anyone who habitually reads.

Atwood opens quite innocuously with a memoir and description of the literary scene in mid-20th C Canada. There’s an interesting discussion of the relationship between the author and the reader (pretty much like in Stephen King’s Misery) and also of the writer’s relationship with themselves (as in The Dark Half). She also discusses the religious aspects of writing. The final chapter is actually rather profound.

So a book about the art of writing is also itself a work of art. Bloody typical of Atwood to do something like that. ( )
  Lukerik | Nov 14, 2020 |
A wide-ranging, perceptive and sometimes hilarious look at becoming a writer, being a writer, wrestling with the art and commerce of writing and more. If you have thought it as a writer, Atwood has -- and likely she captures it better on paper. If you've done it (even the scary or shameful stuff) -- ditto. And if you've navigated, or wanted to, the scary gap between creation and commerce, Atwood can pen BTDT in a way that will still break your heart. ( )
  MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
Plus a half star. It would have been fabulous to be at her lectures on which the book was based. The philosophy was less convincing on the page but the moments of personal experience were touching. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
The short book, Negotiating with the Dead, is a collection of six lectures Margaret Atwood gave on writing. This is not a typical writing handbook, dispensing now-cliched advice like "write what you know" and "show, don't tell." Rather, Atwood tackles the question of what does it mean to "be a writer." What is the writer, anyway, and why are writers compelled to write? She ends up posing more questions than she answers.

The six lectures each address a different aspect of the Writer. Using examples from literature, poetry, and mythology, Atwood positions the writer as six archetypes. Atwood's insights are unusual but will ring true to anyone who has felt the urge to write, or indeed, to any creator, I suspect.

Additional notes on each lecture are on my blog. ( )
  sturlington | Mar 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
As they were all sitting at table, one guest suggested that each of them should relate a tale. Then the bridegroom said to the bride: "Come, my dear, do you know nothing? Relate something to us, like the others." She said: "Then I will relate a dream." -- "The Robber Bridegroom," collected by the Brothers Grimm
...I moot reherce
Hir tales alle, be they bettre or werse,
Or elles falsen som of my mateere.
And therefore, whoso list it nat yheere,
Turne over the leef and chese another tale...
--Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
And now in imagination he has climbed
another planet, the better to look
with single camera view upon this earth--
its total scope, and each afflated tick,
its talk, its trick, its tracklessness--and this,
this he would like to write down in a book!
--A.M. Klein, "Portrait of the Poet as Landscape"
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For the others
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When I was a student of English literature, in the early 1960s, we all had to read an important critical text called Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930).
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Every life lived is also an inner life, a life created.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors which writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain their activities, looking at what costumes they have seen fit to assume, what roles they have chosen to play. In her final chapter she takes up the challenge of the book's title: if a writer is to be seen as 'gifted', who is doing the giving and what are the terms of the gift?" "Margaret Atwood's wide and eclectic reference to other writers, living and dead, is balanced by anecdotes from her own experiences as a writer, both in Canada and on the international scene. The lightness of her touch is underlined by a seriousness about the purpose and the pleasures of writing, and by a deep familiarity with the myths and traditions of western literature."--BOOK JACKET.

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