I will be the one person to praise Margaret Atwood’s work. Well, make that the millionth and one person—she’s that good. I have read five of her novels, but, rudely, she has published 40 or more, so it’s likely I’ll never catch up. And then there are the poetry books. Books of essays. Reams of awards.
She’s even a prolific tweeter. Damn.
So, in talking about her latest collection of essays, Burning Questions, the words of which span the years 2004–2021, I likely won’t be shocking Atwood fans to say to say she is sharp, ironic, funny, lamenting, biting and delightful. But as the subtitle, “Essays and Occasional Pieces” implies, many of the works aren’t full-blown essays: many were from presentations or lectures, many are ecological observations with a political bent, many are breezy and self-effacing musings on her past publications.
Some of the breezy ones are a mere page and a half, but if you’ve swallowed much Atwood, her breezy can contain some whipping winds. Though it’s an easy target, in later pieces she’s unsparing of the Trump administration’s mocking of democracy, and incisive on the way our global institutions are bleeding the planet dry.
To (and From) the Woods They Shall Go
I was fascinated to learn that her father was a forest entomologist, and that the family spent many months yearly in the woods, retreating to cities (notably Toronto) for the snowy winters. Thus her sense of the natural world (and the collision with the unnatural world) was seeded. But for writing that can sometimes have a doomsayer tone, she is yet credible in presenting that the world can still be saved, but it needs a stern hand, which is yet wavering.
There are also many warm and informative testimonials to other writers, such as Alice Munro, Ursula LeGuin and Barry Lopez. Some pieces seem slight, but it’s a collection, after all. Try to read any few of these without a smile and a nod to her wryness and her good sense.
Jealous of Margaret Atwood’s continent-wide talents? Not me. (You can’t see my face, can you?)
[Note: I actually won an ARC of this book through Goodreads, after applying for many others. Funny to go through a book that’s just on the verge of publication, and find a fair amount of typos and a bunch of blank pages where the acknowledgments and index will be. Didn’t dilute the book’s strengths though.]
I am moving along in publication prep of my memoir of my years of lunatic shoplifting during my high school days. I’ll soon see the refined cover (designed by Studiolo Secondari). There will be a lot more info about that (including some free book downloads) and more in my monthly newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.
Links to Thinks
Below, a few articles on psychic good cheer, something to cheer about these days.
A new method to boost your creativity gets rave reviews
“… stories are essential to humans making sense of the world. Interpreting the stories of everyday life leads thinkers to solve problems. Imagining new stories prompts novel inventions to weave those stories into reality. Creativity arises by envisioning ourselves as thoughtful agents in our own stories as well as others’.
5 Ways to Make Your Mornings Better, According to Science
“I suggest keeping movements and stretches so light in the morning that you can barely feel them initially,” Szado explains. “Continually focus on relaxing the muscle and letting the stretch relax to a point where you can’t feel it.”
HOW ONE MUNDANE CHANGE TO YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE CAN BRING POWERFUL HEALTH BENEFITS
“Routines have the power to help us manage our health and our work, home, and community lives. Two years after the pandemic changed everyone’s lives, people now have an opportunity to consider the routines they want to keep and the meaningful things they need in their daily lives to stay productive, happy, and healthy.”
12 Hard Things You Can Do Today
“There you have it, twelve activities that will make your day just a little bit worse, but in a good way. A skipped lunch here and a casual ruck plate there, and you’ll be on the path to freeing yourself from the tyranny of comfort. Your next step is a misogi, and soon you’ll be crying tears of pain on the regular. (That means it’s working.)”