Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born November 18, 1939. She is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, and environmental activist. Most know her from her novels, however. The Handmaid’s Tale has recently boon in the news as Hulu recently ordered a television series based on the book, which premiered in late 2016. Many see the novel as politically relevant today, and it is certainly her best-known work. The story takes place in the near future when society has collapsed, and most women are infertile. Handmaids are fertile women assigned to households of the ruling elite theocracy in order to bear children for them. It is not an easy read.
Probably her next best-known work is the MaddAddam Trilogy, a series of three novels, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and Maddaddam that deal with life after an ecological catastrophe.
Margaret Atwood mainly writes what she calls speculative fiction. She distinguishes it from science fiction, in that her novels concern themselves with things that could happen if current trends in our world would take a certain turn, or go to their logical conclusion.
One of her earlier novels, Alias Grace, was made into a series in Canada and is currently showing on Netflix. It is historical fiction, based on a true story, about a young maid accused of murder, who cannot remember what happened. A young doctor tries to help her remember to prove her innocence.
Atwood’s writing, in all her chosen genres, has always been clearly connected to global and personal politics; it particularly focuses on themes of environmental degradation, women’s roles in society, and the power dynamics of social organization.
Atwood has won an impressive array of awards for her writing, including the Nebula Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Booker Prize.
Quotes by Margaret Atwood
Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.
Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.
You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.
The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.
When I was young, I believed that “nonfiction” meant “true.” But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth — there may be several truths — but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.
Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, “It can’t happen here.” Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.
“Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. … “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.
All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.
Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.
War is what happens when language fails.
Happiness is a garden walled with glass: there’s no way in or out. In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.
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