gertrude and alice bookstore’s, Kate Griffin, shares why Margaret Atwood is required reading for all women.
(Kate is a guest writer from getrude and alice bookstore. She works part time at g&a and is a librarian at the Whitehouse Inst. of Design.)
I first read The Handmaids Tale as required reading in my first year at uni and though I liked it well enough, it certainly didn’t make me fall in love with Margaret Atwood the way my lecturer appeared to have. She had met Ms. Atwood at a conference some years earlier and spoke gushingly of “Margaret”, including a photograph of herself and the writer in her powerpoint presentation on Modern Women’s Literature. Embarrassingly (I was 18), I saw the author’s old and sort of sphinx-like face and disregarded her as ancient and boring – preferring my writers at the time young and dead. My loss. It wasn’t until a few years later when I began reading her early novels; The Edible Woman, Lady Oracle, Surfacing, Life Before Man and Cats Eye that I understood my lecturers crush and went about reading everything she had ever written – often more than once. If I had a photo of myself and Ms. Atwood together, I would totally include it in any power point presentation, regardless of the topic.
So, her books are great. Obviously. She has won the Booker Prize for Fiction (in 2000 for The Blind Assassin) among numerous other prizes including the Arthur C Clark award for best science fiction novel (don’t be scared by this – only a few of her novels are in the sci-fi genre) and the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has also been a tireless environmental activist and remains so at 73.
At the Bookshop I recommend Atwood’s novels to anyone, but in particular, to women. In fact I would force them upon all women if I could as required reading. Required for life. The feminist themes in her work are as relevant today as much as ever and I am excited to see what she will have to say at the Sydney Writers Festival this year. We are lucky to have her.
The following is an excerpt from her 2000 essay The Female Body, which will do a better job of endearing those of you who aren’t familiar, to the work of Margaret Atwood than I could ever do.
He said, I won’t have one of those things in the house. It gives a young girl a false notion of beauty, not to mention anatomy. If a real woman was built like that she’d fall on her face.
She said, If we don’t let her have one like all the other girls she’ll feel singled out. It’ll become an issue. She’ll long for one and she’ll long to turn into one. Repression breeds sublimation. You know that.
He said, It’s not just the plastic pointy tits, it’s the wardrobes. The wardrobes and that stupid male doll, what’s his name, the one with the underwear glued on.
She said, Better to get it over with when she’s young. He said, Alright but don’t let me see it.
She came whizzing down the stairs, thrown like a dart. She was stark naked. Her hair had been chopped off, her head was turned back to front, she was missing some toes and she’d been tattooed all over her body with purple ink, in a scrollwork design. She hit the potted azalea, trembled there for a moment like a botched angel, and fell.
He said, I guess we’re safe.
Margaret Atwood tour dates