I know, I know, Margaret Atwood is not dead, and I'm suppose to cover Norman Mailer now. But my wife insists I talk about Margaret Atwood first because she likes her so much, and has a shelf filled with all Atwood's works. A shelf that glares at me whenever I pass it because, you see, I don't like Margaret Atwood.
To me Ms. Atwood is a male basher. She bashes males with aplomb, with gusto, with joyous abandon. I'm well aware that she is a great writer, much acclaimed, academically erudite, but I don't want to read her. Her insistence that she doesn't write Science Fiction (THE HANDMAID'S TALE) but Speculative Fiction goads me no end.
Actually, I have read Margaret Atwood. I read THE EDIBLE WOMAN, and SURFACING many years ago as part of a Canadian Lit. course at university. GOOD BONES---I liked that one(it was short!). And recently THE PENELOPIAD. That's the one that did it.
THE PENELOPIAD: The story goes, and I'll try to be concise. A publisher wanted to make money with an idea that some great writers should write a novel on the Greek myths. Ms. Atwood took THE ODYSSEY and the ILIAD and focused her twisted eye on Penelope, the wife of Odysseus. (Penelope + Iliad--Penelopiad. Get it? I know.)
In an interview, Ms. Atwood had said that when she read THE ODYSSEY as a child the one thing that stood out from all the rest was the death of the twelve maids. I find this astonishing. The story is that when Odysseus came home after twenty exciting, memorable, dangerous, wild years at sea, he killed all her suitors AND her twelve maids(for being disloyal). Odysseus strung a clothesline across the court and hanged the twelve together like wet sheets in the wind, which is quite inventive, really.
Margaret Atwood didn't think so. She has the spirits? of the twelve maids spouting poetry in a chorus line throughout the book. They are really upset with Odysseus.
Odysseus is described as a brute--hairy and mean--throughout the book also. I did not enjoy reading this book.
This little novel was a bestseller across Canada for weeks, and I have not as of yet read a bad review on it. When you are proclaimed as the great Canadian writer, you can write anything, I suppose.
However, I was told by a number of learned ladies to read THE BLIND ASSASSIN, and I would change my tune. So I may visit my wife's Atwood shelf---with trepidation--- and get that novel. There's no twelve maids in it, is there?
Next post, Norman Mailer.