NYS Writers Institute Reading - November 9, 2005
Atwood's newest novel is "The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus" (2005), a reimagining of Homer's mythic world from the perspective of Odysseus's wife. Penelope remains at home in the Kingdom of Ithaca without her husband for a full twenty years, while Odysseus wages war against Troy, and wanders the Aegean Sea. Presumed to be a widow, she is besieged by suitors, who devour her estate and sleep with her maidservants. In addition to giving us a rich, lively, and fully-realized Penelope, Atwood weighs in on the side of Penelope's twelve "disloyal" maidservants, who are ultimately hanged.
Atwood's "The Penelopiad" is one of the first volumes in a literary series being launched by the United Kingdom's Canongate Books called "The Myths." The Myths" series will feature major international writers--among them A.S. Byatt, Donna Tartt, Ali Smith, David Grossman, Alexander McCall Smith, Chinua Achebe and others--retelling the myths of their choice derived from cultures around the world.
Atwood's previous novel was "Oryx and Crake" (2003), the brilliant story of a near-future world reduced to a wasteland by climate change and runaway biotechnology.
"'Oryx and Crake' can hold its own against any of the 20th century's most potent dystopias--'Brave New World,' '1984,' 'The Space Merchants'--with regard to both dramatic impact and fertility of invention." - Thomas Disch, "Washington Post"
Atwood received the Booker Prize for "The Blind Assassin" (2000). Four other novels by Atwood have been short-listed for the Booker, one of the English-speaking world's most prestigious literary awards. A Canadian citizen living in Toronto, Atwood has twice received her country's highest literary honor, the Governor General's Award. In 1986, "Ms. Magazine" named her, "Woman of the Year." She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, has been awarded the Norwegian Order of literary merit and the French Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and is a foreign Honorary Member for Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Atwood's earlier novels include "The Edible Woman" (1969), "Surfacing" (1972), "Lady Oracle" (1976), "Life Before Man" (1970), "Bodily Harm" (1981), The "Handmaid's Tale" (1985), winner of the Commonwealth Literature Prize and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction, "Cat's Eye" (1988), "The Robber Bride" (1993), and "Alias Grace" (1996). In 1990, "The Handmaid's Tale" was adapted as a major motion picture starring Natasha Richardson and Robert Duvall.
Other recent books include "Eating Fire: Selected Poetry, 1965-1995" (1998), "Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing" (2002), and the children's book, "Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes" (2003).
Margaret Atwood also visited the NYS Writers Institute on October 28, 1998.
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.