Man, Woman, or Turtle

Although I can’t stand to be without something to read while I eat, or during my many waiting states, my reading habits are determined mostly by chance. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a best-seller when it was still best-selling. Friends lend me books they’ve enjoyed. Sometimes I wander bookstores, jotting down titles to search for later in the library. I go to the library (or its website) with those lists and things people have suggested or talked to me about. While I wander there, I often find something totally different which I bring home to have with breakfast, and in the bath, and before bed.

Recently, through some combination of those methods, I came home with a book from 2006. Waltzing Again, new and selected conversations with Margaret Atwood. These interviews have given me a new list, more shelves to search through during my next trip to the library. I’ve read most of Atwood’s books, although not the newest ones yet. But, whatever I find, this waltzing book will probably be my favorite for a while. To be clear, this blog is not a book report or review, but reading this book was enough fun to be worth writing about.

Being a novelist is a solitary lonely thing. I don’t mean lonely in some pathetic romantic sense, just that it isn’t a group activity. I have a normal human craving to find people who have had the same experience.   Reading Margaret’s descriptions of the work of novel writing, how hard and fun and unpredictable it all is, has been like having breakfast with the best kind of friend. Her happy face was so patient, on that book cover, waiting for days in the back of the car, until I could track her down and get back to devouring these conversations, like some avid eavesdropper.

One of best lines in the book: “to write is to wrestle with an angel in the mud.” What I see in Atwood, and know in myself, is that writing is thinking and thinking is writing. “Let me think about that,” she tells her interviewers. She directs them, on certain points: “Think about it.” She recommends one book, twice. The Gift, Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, (Lewis Hyde). So, that’s something to look for, and who knows what will show up on the way there? Hyde writes about artists, gifts, work, and the usual economy. I’m intrigued. Whether it will re-enforce my own oddball take on my life’s work waits to be discovered.

In this book, the quirky little surprises pleased me most. Margaret ‘s playful ease with words was delightful . My personal favorite line is about the gender of writers, and publishing. “…commercial publishers want to publish things they can sell. Whether such publishers will publish a given book –whether it’s by a man, woman, or turtle—depends a lot on what they think its reception will be.”

Man, woman, or turtle. Two out of three, that’s me!     Alice Turtle Robb

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