A Margaret Atwood Guide to Life

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Margaret Atwood's 14th novel, MaddAddam, was published earlier this month. We see this as a great opportunity to celebrate Atwood and glean a few lessons from the prolific writer (and Tweeter!). Apart from writing acclaimed poetry and the classic novel The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood has also gone head-to-head with Norman Mailer on gender issues (and won). We think we could all learn a thing or two from her. 

Life Lessons from Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's 14th novel, MaddAddam, was published earlier this month. We see this as a great opportunity to celebrate Atwood and glean a few lessons from the prolific writer (and Tweeter!). Apart from writing acclaimed poetry and the classic novel The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood has also gone head-to-head with Norman Mailer on gender issues (and won). We think we could all learn a thing or two from her. 

Lesson # 1: Always use your "male friend"

 "Why do men feel threatened by women?" I asked a male friend of mine. (I love that wonderful rhetorical device, "a male friend of mine." It's often used by female journalists when they want to say something particularly bitchy but don't want to be held responsible for it themselves. It also lets people know that you do have male friends, that you aren't one of those fire-breathing mythical monsters, The Radical Feminists, who walk around with little pairs of scissors and kick men in the shins if they open doors for you. "A male friend of mine" also gives — let us admit it — a certain weight to the opinions expressed.) So this male friend of mine, who does by the way exist, conveniently entered into the following dialogue. "I mean," I said, "men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power." "They're afraid women will laugh at them," he said. "Undercut their world view." Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, "Why do women feel threatened by men?" "They're afraid of being killed," they said.

—From Second Words: Selected Critical Prose 

Lesson # 2: Pay more attention to the words that are important to us

"The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love." 

From Surfacing

Lesson # 3: Keep your clothes on

"You can think clearly only with your clothes on."

From The Handmaid’s Tale

Lesson # 4: Use your words

"A word after a word after a word is power."

                            and

"War is what happens when language fails." —From The Robber Bride


Lesson # 5: Female friendships are unconditional but also the most hurtful

"Perhaps the reason it's taken women novelists so long to get around to dealing with women's friendships head on is that betrayal by a woman friend is the ultimate betrayal. In sexual love, betrayal is almost expected; if we don't allow for it, it's not for want of warning, because treacherous lovers are thoroughly built into popular mythology, from folk songs to pop songs to torch songs to mom's advice. But who warns you about your best friend? Because friendship is supposed to be unconditional, a free gift of the spirit, its violation is all the more unbearable."

From a New York Times essay

Lesson # 6: No one ever really grows up

"Another belief of mine; that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise."

From Cat's Eye