April 30, 2004



I don't get this view of Atwood as "difficult" or "needlessly angry." If you had to regularly answer stupid questions from journalists all the time that have nothing to do with the books, then I'm sure you'd probably get upset every now and then. I know I would. Here's the interesting question: Is Atwood's anger more pronounced in print because she's (a) a woman and (b) outspoken about feminist themes? To my mind, Martin Amis has been just as rude, if not ruder, to the press he talks to, and he's declared the "bad boy" of lit. The real question is, given how every gesture and sentence is examined under the lens, whether there might be an unspoken stigma against smart women.


I don't especially get it either; my reference to "recent outings" was tongue in cheek but subtlety doesn't always survive the blogosphere; I don't think she's necessarily any more or less cranky than any of a hundred other authors I've read. So, yes, I think you're point about a stigma is well-taken - I think Jeanette Winterson suffered from a lot of the same sort of thing (although she was definitely more outrageous and provocative than Atwood).

Jimmy Beck

I heard her read a couple of weeks ago and she was unfailingly polite, answering every "Pen or computer?" and "How do I start a novel?" question with patience and good humor. She made one crack at someone's expense but I remember thinking that I'd've said something worse. She is aware of her own ego, certainly--she talked about how her daughter used to get in her face and say, "Oh dear, Mom, are we feeling famous today?"


Having once been a sniveling fan of Atwood's whilst at University (or, well, Cal State Northridge) I can tell you that her Medusa remark is well remembered on me. She came to town to sign, I believe, Alias Grace at Duttons and I, having just written my senior thesis comparing The Handmade's Tale to Marge Piercy's Woman On The Edge Of Time (I earned that A!) rushed down to see her, handfuls of books in hand, and, stupidly, my thesis. When my turn finally came to see her, I handed her the books and asked "Would you mind signing my thesis?" She asked, "What were your conclusions?" And I told her. She stared at me for a moment, took the thesis from my hands roughly, signed her name with a flourish and said, "That's ludicrous. You are totally off base." And that, sadly, was that.

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