Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2018: Week Three (Favourites) #MARM

In any given moment, I could answer this a different way: what is my favourite Margaret Atwood?

Both Second Words and The Door stand out for me, as early ventures into forms which I didn’t think I enjoyed reading (essays and poems).

And when I was beginning to seriously write short stories, I studied the stories in Bluebeard’s Egg with a writer friend who was also interested in the form, so this was my first close reading of a text from the perspective of mechanics (which didn’t interfere one bit with my admiration and enjoyment – both increased).

She is also one of the first writers whose works were designated “hardcover required” for me, in a time when one routinely waited a year and often longer for a less expensive paperback edition and when that meant seriously slashing my grocery budget for the pleasure of consuming stories.

So, the question of a favourite is a challenge to answer and undoubtedly my response would be different even if it were to be posed next week rather than today.

With that in mind, today’s answer is The Blind Assassin.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the degree of difficulty in a novel: what is too much, or too little?

Partly this is on my mind because of the chatter about Anna Burns’ recent Man Booker Prize win for Milkman, reputedly a challenging novel.

And partly because of the varying responses I have seen to Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black, a novel whose careful crafting, all its layers and echoes, can be easily overlooked in favour of reading for story.

Finally, partly because I love puzzle novels but I also want to feel some kind of a connection, even if it is only with a sense of feeling disconnected which is shared by a character.

The Blind Assassin is one of the first instances in which I can recall feeling all-aswim with the story at one point and still managing to negotiate my way through that disorientation.

It begins simply enough, with a narrative which pulls readers into the past, into the story of the Chase sisters. But, eventually, there are not only bits of the past to reconcile with the present-day narrative, but also glimpses of the future. And, even more disturbingly, a future invented, by a character who has been inspired by reading pulp science-fiction novels and stories (much as young Margaret Atwood, herself, was inspired).

These layers of storytelling are intimately and skilfully connected, and what a flush, what a thrill, to have moved from confusion to comprehension with The Blind Assassin.

And, now that I live in the city in which the story opens, I really should reread.

And marvel at it all over again.

And what is your favourite Margaret Atwood?

The Schedule for Margaret Atwood Reading Month:

November 1: Beginnings (launched here and also by Naomi)

November 8: Cover Images (hosted by Naomi at Consumed by Ink)

Today: Favourites (hosted here)

November 22: Quotations (hosted by Naomi at Consumed by Ink)

November 29: Endings (hosted by Marcie at Buried in Print)

November 30: A Round-Up of links collected from participants

You can find more information about this event in our announcement post here and here.

Remember: These weekly themes are in addition to any book, story, poem, essay, interview, article, etc. you want to read (or watch) over the month and discuss on your blogs or on Twitter.  #MARM

Happy Reading!

2018-11-15T08:57:59+00:00

11 Comments

  1. Rebecca Foster November 19, 2018 at 4:09 am - Reply

    The Blind Assassin is my favourite, too 🙂

  2. heavenali November 17, 2018 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    I remember reading The Blind Assassin, so sure it was going to be hard – I must have heard things about it from other people. Of course I gobbled it up, the storytelling was superb the layering so clever. I was preparing my own blog post earlier – an went looking for all my Atwood books – all in various places around the house – and it seems I no longer have a copy of it.

    My absolute favourite is still The Handmaid’s Tale though, though I have huge love for several others.

    • Buried In Print November 19, 2018 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      So now the big question is whether you buy the copy you remember having or whether you have fun looking for a newer edition! Even though THT is one of the ones I’ve reread more recently than some, I’m getting so tempted by the idea of rereading it, because so many people are mentioning it as either their first or their most memorable. Plus, I’m thinking there are probably some excellent ‘introductions’ and ‘afterwords’ now that so much time has passed since its initial publication. Maybe I’ll borrow some library copies rather than return to my old copy!

  3. annelogan17 November 15, 2018 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    I really liked The Blind Assassin too. There’s something about Atwood’s writing, that even if you don’t like the book itself, you still enjoy the (impressive) journey!

    • Buried In Print November 15, 2018 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      One can admire craftsmanship even if one doesn’t enjoy the particulars of a theme/story!

  4. Naomi November 15, 2018 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Now I wish this one was more fresh in my mind. You’ve made me want to spend time with it again.
    If asked, I would choose Alias Grace as my favourite. But, really, I think its whichever one I’m reading at the time or have most recently finished.

    • Buried In Print November 15, 2018 at 10:19 am - Reply

      That’s one I often choose as a favourite as well. It was the book I read in hardcover from the library before I started buying them in hardcover on publication day (with this one, The Blind Assassin). So, perhaps Alias Grace is actually even more of a favourite, as it’s the one that made me do it! 🙂

  5. kaggsysbookishramblings November 15, 2018 at 8:32 am - Reply

    I must admit I would struggle to pick Atwood favourites as she’s just sooo good but so varied in her writing. Blind Assassin and Alias Grace come to mind, but it’s a while since I read most of her books. Impossible to choose!

    • Buried In Print November 15, 2018 at 8:46 am - Reply

      That’s why I feel like it’s primarily mood driven. The artistry is always there, but sometimes I want more symbolism or history (or art or wit or neon bunnies or robots) which leads me to feel like one is more of a favourite on a given day than another.

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