‘Curious Pursuits’ by Margaret Atwood
“I don’t review books I don’t like, although to do so would doubtless be amusing for the Ms Hyde side of me and entertaining for the more malicious class of reader. But either the book is really bad, in which case no one should review it, or it’s good but not my cup of tea, in which case someone else should review it.”
How could I not fall for someone who echoed my sentiments exactly! Another excerpt from the introduction to the book by the author herself, and I was hooked,
“Why is this book called Curious Pursuits? ‘Curious’ describes both my habitual state of mind – a less kind word would be ‘nosy’ – as well as the subject matter of some of these writings…….’Passionate’ might have been more accurate; however, it would have given a wrong impression, and disappointed a few men in raincoats.”
This is a priceless collection of essays, reviews, speeches and some obituaries by Margaret Atwood, five time nominee and one time winner of the Booker Prize. Covering a wide time span of almost 35 years from 1970 to 2005, the book also gives us a glimpse of a ‘woman’ writer’s life during the period.
Even though she doesn’t seem to like being a called a feminist, the female perspective is evident throughout and how! Some of her observations reminds us that nothing much has changed through the years. Sample this from the chapter ‘ The Curse of Eve- Or, What I Learned in School’,
“Wonder Woman was an Amazon princess who lived on an island with some other Amazons but no men. She had magic bullet-deflecting bracelets, a transparent airplane, a magic lasso and super skills and powers. She fought crime. There was only one catch – she had a boyfriend. But, if he kissed her, her superhuman strength disappeared like Samson’s after a clean shave. Wonder Woman could never get married and still remain Wonder Woman.”
She writes about subjects as diverse as her aunts and their influence on her writing, to reviews of books by John Updike and Marquez. If at all there is a connecting thread in at least a few posts, it is about Canadian literature and writers. One chapter that I particularly liked was ‘Introduction: Reading Blind. Introduction to The Best American Short Stories‘ where she had to select twenty short stories from a collection of hundred and twenty published stories, without knowing who the authors were and the joy of not having “to pay attention to who ought to be in because of his or her general worthiness or critical hosannas.”
The obituaries that I liked best were of two authors I’d never heard of before – Carol Shields and Studs Terkel – books by both of them are right on top of my ever growing ‘to read’ list. Another captivating chapter is ‘George Orwell: Some Personal Connections.’ Her reviews include ‘Beloved‘ by Toni Morrison, ‘The Witches of Eastwick‘ by John Updike, ‘An Experiment In Love‘ by Hilary Mantel and ‘Snow‘ by Orhan Pamuk. My favorite though, is what she calls ‘The Indelible Woman’ – her thoughts on Virginia’s Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse,‘ that she first read at nineteen and then again forty years later. You nod your head in agreement when she says,
“Some books have to wait until you’re ready for them.”
What makes this book so interesting is that you might have had no clue about the people , books and incidents that the author is writing about, nevertheless you enjoy it to the core. Her writing style seems so easy flowing that it can come only with experience. The sharp wit and tongue in cheek humor is something that has to be read to be truly relished.
Spell bound, I went and got myself a copy of her ‘Lady Oracle, ‘the back cover blurb sounds quite sensational,
“Joan Foster is the bored wife of a myopic ban-the bomber. She takes off overnight as Canada’s new superpoet, pens lurid gothics on the sly, attracts a blackmailing reporter, skids cheerfully in and out of menacing plots, hair-raising traps, and passionate trysts, and lands dead and well in Terremoto,Italy.”
Stand by for the review, folks 🙂
Verdict – A definite one on the list for the girls out there, not to be gulped all at once, it is a ‘sip, swirl and savor in leisure’ one. Get your very own copy, keep it by your bedside and on those occasions when life seems to be too much because of ‘whoever – knows -who,’ re read the chapter ‘Writing the Male Character’.
This is also for our equal halves who have a definite sense of humor and do not mind listening to some views and reviews from a tribe member of ours.