Margaret Atwood – The Paris Review

I was immediately drawn to the interview conducted with Margaret Atwood on the Paris Review. Until last semester, I had not had the chance to explore her writing. After enrolling in an English class all about horror, I had the opportunity to read her short story, Death by Landscape. Because I had not known much about her, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly her story caught my attention.

The interview took please near Princeton University where Atwood was a guest lecture. She was born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1939 and by sixteen years old, she committed herself to a career in writing. Like many others, including myself, her writing was inspired by the work of Edgar Allen Poe. In fact, he inspired her first collection of poems published titled Double Persephone.

Since then, Atwood has grown immensely as a writer. Much of her work, like, Death by Landscape, encompasses a theme of survival. Growing up in a rural area of Canada, she learned many ways of wilderness survival that she consequently intertwines into her writing. At the time of her childhood, not many people knew where Canada was. Because she grew up outside of the United States, Atwood was considered a “foreign student,” which also played a common theme in her writing as her career progressed.

As a female writer, much of Atwood’s work has questioned the status of women, bringing much attention to human rights. Although at first she does not admit that she feels it is harder to get a book published as a woman, she later claims that in many countries it is hard to get published at all.

“We have fallen very much into the habit of judging books by their covers,” she claims, but, “let’s judge the results, not the picture of the author on the back flap.”

As the interview comes to a close, Atwood shares some insight on how she writes, which I found particularly interesting, especially after sharing my writing process with my peers in class. She spends much of her first draft scribbling over and scratching out words when she does not like what she has written. Although she can write quickly, her final draft takes a long time before it is even close to being finished. With that being said, she takes the time to write scenes individually instead of writing a novel all the way through.

The interview concluded and I felt as though I knew Atwood personally, not just her writing. She is an inspiration to woman everywhere, including myself, and I cannot wait come across her work again, like I had with Death by Landscape.

3 thoughts to “Margaret Atwood – The Paris Review”

  1. I agree with what she says about us judging stories sometimes too much on the author. Although I think this is something that we do as a society on a much larger scale as well. We can view almost nothing without having a source for it. Everything is attributed to someone and someone must be accountable for everything. This can be good because if we love an author because the we can follow them through further work. However it also works against us in some cases as we already have it in our heads that we should hate some things because of who it is from.

  2. Judging a book based upon the author is something that I’m guilty of. I chose to read Hemingway’s interview because of the name recognition and lots of reading choices I made in high school (a period of my life when I tried very hard to be more sophisticated than I was) were totally based upon the reputation of the writer. To go further, we often forgive writers who write “classics” even when they should be vilified. The “famous” factor affects our choices and our perspective more than we would like to admit. I think Atwood said it well when she tells us to “judge the results.”

  3. I am so glad you found Margaret Atwood to be so interesting; she is definitely one of my favorite authors as well. I definitely agree that people judge books, if not by the covers, then by the first few pages or by the author’s name. Part of this is because we as a society tend to not have limited amount of time, so when we do have time to read, we do not want to “waste” this time on reading something we expect to not enjoy. However, I definitely think that we should all take more risks because there could be countless incredible books in the world that we do not know exist because they have bad cover-art.

Leave a Reply