Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2018: Week One (Beginnings) #MARM
Welcome to Margaret Atwood Reading Month, to our chat about beginnings and first encounters. I’m looking forward to hearing about how other readers first discovered her and her work. As for me, I read her early work in a burst and it’s hard to remember what was the initial pull.
Perhaps the idea of a young woman’s face on the cover was a draw in the mid-80s when I was a teenager. Most of my English texts were written by male authors, so that may have been appealing. Especially with that direct gaze, and a halo of curls which my straight-haired younger-self would have envied immensely.
Perhaps it was the arrangement of dates, which looked like a diary and would have immediately appealed to me (thanks to Norma Fox Mazer and Lois Lowry and other children’s writers who had drawn me in with letters and lists and other written things).
Perhaps it was the scene in the museum, in the gallery of dinosaurs, in the museum in Toronto, which I had already visited several times as a young girl (even though the T-Rex was awfully menacing and the bat cave was dark and frightening – it still is).
Perhaps it was simply the first lines: “I don’t know how I should live. I don’t know how anyone should live. All I know is how I do live.” All that uncertainty: it likely would have appealed to me as a teenager, especially with the idea that, printed in a proper book, there might be an answer to follow, an answer I could pursue while still seeming to know exactly what I was all about in the real world.
The Edible Woman, Surfacing and Lady Oracle were all read in short order and there was something there which pulled me back for more (although I studiously avoided Dancing Girls, perhaps because short stories still seemed closer to school readers and anthologies than a proper adult novel).
The blurb on the back of my copy reads: “Margaret Atwood has the knack of getting right inside the souls of her characters and creating people who are literally unforgettable.” (Also, there’s Germaine Greer: “One of the most important writers in English today.”) But, honestly, I’ve forgotten nearly everything about Life before Man. I think it’s time for a reread.