Review: The Penelopiad

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The Penelopiad
by Margaret Atwood

★★★☆☆

2005 • 224 pages • Canongate

Margaret Atwood, especially in her later years, has a very specific and peculiar gift as a writer. Reading her prose, you hear not only the voice of a fully developed character, but Atwood’s as well. I’m tempted to say that her female protagonists have some similarities, but I haven’t read enough of her bibliography to feel comfortable saying that. All I can say is that Penelope and Offred are two different women related by a common mother. Atwood’s voice never intrudes, but you would never confuse her books for anyone else’s.

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Saturday Morning Opinions: 2013 in Review

2013 has been a pretty big year, for both me and the blog. Not only I have I graduated college, completed a publishing program, gotten my first job, and moved across the country, but I’ve also tinkered with my writing style, format, and various features here at the Literary Omnivore to build a leaner, meaner bookish machine. So, for the first time in the Literary Omnivore’s history as my live reading journal, I present to you this year in review on the last Saturday of the year.

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Reading by Ear: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
read by Betty Harris

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During the mid-aughts, my family spent two weeks in Seattle visiting my brother. (I’m not the first McBride who has gone west before returning east in glory. I am not even the second.) A little ways into the trip, my parents asked me if there was anything I wanted to do while we were there. Stunned by this rare opportunity to steer our course, I nevertheless had a ready answer: the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.

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Review: The Tent

The Tent by Margaret Atwood

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In college, just a little bit before the registrar started reminding me that I couldn’t just take English literature and economics classes at a liberal arts college, I took an introduction to creative writing course. The essay and the short story units went swimmingly, but I was stumped when it came to poetry. I have difficulty differentiating the impulse to write poetry from the impulse to write prose, so I decided to write a poem expressing a highly symbolic image that had been floating around my head for a decade or so to see if that was the poetic impulse. A blue, masked beast tells a tall girl that he will eat her one day; she replies that he eats everyone eventually. The beast represents time, perhaps eternity, and the girl represents humanity in general. It’s about accepting mortality on a personal and a cosmic scale.

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Review: In Other Worlds

In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood

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Readers with long memories might recall that I attended one of Margaret Atwood’s Ellman lectures back in 2010, which was a fun experience—it’s always fantastic to see great authors talk about their work, and I enjoy the shadenfreude of wandering through college campuses much, much larger than mine. (I can wake up five minutes before class and still be on time! Well, I don’t, because I need food, exercise, and a shower before I am ready to face the day without regressing into a wombat, but the point still stands.) So when I heard that Atwood had expanded upon her lectures, themselves a pentinence for rejecting the label of science fiction, I was highly intrigued.

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The Literary Horizon: In Other Worlds, As If

As much as I find myself not caring for those who don’t care for speculative fiction, respect must be given to those who are trying to negotiate their way towards a wholehearted embrace of the genre. And as academia and other institutions who were once resistant to the stuff open the doors, we end up with a lot of scholarly writing on speculative fiction and (of course!) on the fandom that grew from it.

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The Sunday Salon: NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Books

In June, I was alerted by my fellow The Lord of the Rings fans to NPR’s call to nominate books for their Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books. Setting aside the problem of conflating the genres—I mean, I get it, but it does mean a lot of good books in both categories will fall by the wayside—I enjoyed looking through the comments for new recommendations and, of course, taking the opportunity to peddle Jacqueline Carey’s The Sundering like it’s my job. (If you read and liked The Lord of the Rings, you should read it. End of story.) The nominations were counted, the votes were tallied, and on Thursday, NPR unveiled the fruit of its labors—their top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books (circa Summer 2011). I’m not going to copy the list verbatim—you can find a printable version here if you so desire—but I am going to talk about some of the selections that made it, be they good or bad in my book.

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The Sunday Salon: Literary Taxonomy

I’ve been following the dialogue between Margaret Atwood and Ursula Le Guin concerning what exactly constitutes science fiction for some time, because it’s an important question–at what point is that line drawn? We tend to think that other people see genres the same way we do, as Atwood and Le Guin did. However, to their surprise, they discovered they did not, making their chief conflict quite complicated. When I attended one of Atwood’s lectures at Emory a few weeks ago, I was quite taken with her choice of phrase when she was discussing the many meanings SF has to her–it depends on your “literary taxonomy”. To further explore that idea, I’ve decided to clarify and contemplate my personal literary taxonomy.

(Obviously, we’re only dealing with fiction here–nonfiction and fiction are as different as the day and night. It’s only when you try to pick out the different phases of the moon that you run into trouble.)

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The Sunday Salon: Margaret Atwood

Theater, thou heartless mistress. When I heard Margaret Atwood was coming to Atlanta to discuss speculative fiction, I was overjoyed–only to discover that her reading and signing conflicted with rehearsal. But she was also scheduled for three lectures at Emory, a stone’s throw away from my own campus. Without a ticket (because I live on the edge), I went to the only lecture I could make it to–last Sunday’s lecture.

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