Friday, December 30, 2005

Margaret Atwood

Sitting here, morosely inspecting the empty tin of luscious strawberries enrobed in pure white chocolate, I decided that I should be insanely jealous of Margaret Atwood.
One of the items of fact that prevent this is a certain empathy despite the many differences. When Atwood was growing up, she used to smear peanut butter and honey on soda crackers and go hide in a secluded hidey-hole with a book. Well, I used brown sugar on the peanut butter.
There's another reason, - besides her acknowledged brilliance - her honesty.
Negotiating with the Dead, which repeats the Empson lectures (Cambridge) contains this passage:
"I'll begin with the standard disclaimer. I'm a writer and a reader, and that's about it. I'm not a scholar or a literary theoretician, and any such notions that have wandered into this book have got there by the usual writerly methods, which resemble the ways of the jackdaw; we steal the shiny bits, and build them into the structures of our own disorderly nests."
I delight in this description and the way she roots abstract in the real.
This is a book to be read slowly, with much staring off into space to accumulate bits and pieces from one's own experience to either refute or agree.

The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes made me blink. Not being particularly a fan of drive-by history, much preferring my own clunky vehicle for that sort of research. One is reassured on one hand to see that Henry of Huntington and William of Malmesbury are sources for the early monarchs and disappointed on the other that less traditional sources were not employed.
Still, the sort of collection that often turns out to be unexpectedly useful.

An Ursual Blanchard mystery, The Fugitive Queen.
I have always despised, with as much passion as one can engender towards a historical character, Mary Queen of Scots. I have always seen her as selfish, indulgent, "me, me" personality, concerned solely with her droit and not her responsibilities.
This novel does not shake that belief.
However, as engaging as the basic set-up - the heroine is a loyal bastard half-sister of Elizabeth and employed by her and Cecil as an unraveller of plots against the crown - I wish on occasion she would be a little less physically passive. Yanno (TM, Miss Snark) a little knife work, horse charging, and walloping of miscreants.

P.S. My husband came home yesterday with three more frogs...


Anonymous said...

two s's in luscious. Miss Snark encourages the mediocre and talentless.

Bernita said...

So, how come you're not encouraged?

Dennie McDonald said...

I feel so out of sorts. I usually read 3-4 books a week but haven't finished one since October. But I have been writing so there is an upside.

When I can steal away - I have my book, Hershey kisses my fave CD (Bo Bice rocks!) - and no kids =)

Bernita said...

Writing rules, Dennie.
But it causes reading withdrawal symptoms, donit?

Dennie McDonald said...

Honestly, I get almost the same high from both - there is something to be said for sitting back with someone else's book and relaxing, letting yourself drift away. . .

But when you create your own story, your own world... I often have no clue where the story will take me - I am not a huge plotter - so the book I write is as adventurous as picking up my fave author! But I can control it all - the power {muah...muah}

archer said...

Atwood annoys me. I always want to push one of her paragraphs off a cliff so I can hear all the little glass things go smash.

Bernita said...

Oh God, Archer, I love that.
Priceless comment.
It's her basic mordant negativity that puts me off in general.
So habitually I read "around" her something like a dog circling a possibly poisoned treat.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Bernita...queen of the one-liner! I am humbled by your literary cognizance, but brown sugar on peanut butter...carb overload!!Yikes!

Dennie....that Bo Bice CD does in fact rock!

I think we're getting a full dose of reading over at Miss Snark's. Man, I bow to her stamina!

Gabriele C. said...

I agree on Mary Queen of Scots, but frankly, I don't like Elizabeth any better. She never got over the fact that Mary was the cheerleader and got all the boys. Bitch fight alert. :-)

M. G. Tarquini said... got a troll. An honest to goodness troll...

Great comeback. On peanut butter, honey and brown sugar - that was back when we didn't worry about calories, didn't know about cholesterol and thought nothing of climbing trees to read our books.

Bernita said...

Um, Gabriele, Elizabeth had all the boys she wanted. She just didn't marry and murder them.
Bonnie, we needed those carbs - then.
M.G., it's the Billy Goat Gruff method...

Gabriele C. said...

Well, she was the queen. It was probably a dangerous thing to say "no" to her. :-)

What I mean is that after all I've read about the Mary/Lissy conflict, it strikes me as not only politicial and religious, but personal, too. Those two would never have gotten along, even with the same politcal aims and religious convictions.