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Publisher's Summary

What is the role of the writer? Prophet? High priest of art? Court jester? Or witness to the real world? 

Looking back on her own childhood and writing career, Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors which writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain - or excuse! - their activities, looking at what costumes they have assumed, what roles they have chosen to play. In her final chapter she takes up the challenge of the title: if a writer is to be seen as "gifted", who is doing the giving and what are the terms of the gift? Atwood's wide reference to other writers, living and dead, is balanced by anecdotes from her own experiences, both in Canada and elsewhere. The lightness of her touch is offset by a seriousness about the purpose and the pleasures of writing, and by a deep familiarity with the myths and traditions of western literature. 

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Quebec, Ontario, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College. Throughout her 30 years of writing, Atwood has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. Hew novel The Blind Assassin won the 2000 Booker Prize for Fiction. She is the author of more than 25 volumes of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include Alias Grace (1996), The Robber Bride (1994), Cat's Eye (1988), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), Surfacing (1972) and The Edible Woman (1970). Acclaimed for her talent for portraying both personal lives and worldly problems of universal concern, Atwood's work has been published in more than 35 languages, including Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic, and Estonian.

©2002 O.W. Toad Ltd 2002 (P)2020 Audible, Inc.

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What listeners say about On Writers and Writing

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I thought I would give this a chance.

I was never a big fan of Atwood. I found her more pretentious than insightful, but I thought I would give this a chance. Imagine my surprise in reading this, discovering that it was more pretentious than insightful. Shocking.

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like a Masterclass.

well done, but you should know your classics and mythology - she quotes a lot of it. also, Ms. Atwood's voice can be a bit "dronish". just would have preferred a livelier reader.

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Margaret Atwood Kills It Again in NWTD

I mean it in the best way, of course. What times are these that we may listen to Margaret Atwood's on voice giving us a writer-reader tour of her thoughts and knowledge about writing. As in the subjects of the final chapter, she, a competent guide, takes us on a visit to hell, then gets us out. I would spend more tickets to go on the ride once again. What's hell without a rickety abandoned roller coaster you are compelled to sit down in and hold on tight? Especially with Atwood throwing the switch and jumping in beside you. p.s. Her hair is real.

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  • Brandy Ringleb
  • 2021-01-11

l just love Margaret Atwood.

I really feel fortunate to get to benefit from Margaret Atwood's years worth of reading, and getting to hear tons of stories, prime and pieces through her lens. She really has a fascia way of looking at things.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Layne Hood
  • 2021-03-04

Enlightened

Atwood's reading voice seems almost monotone & droll. And then very quickly her humor enchants; as does her encyclopedic knowledge of literature & the writing craft. Invaluable!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Harry
  • 2021-09-20

disappointed.

Picked up this audio book because of its title, "on writers and writing". I never read her other work (and, I never will, at this point). the book was not what I expected. I couldn't care less how old she was when Elvis Presley debuted. the first part was pretty much pointless ramblings. I couldn't continue. one thing I learned from this book is, how not to write. that's why I give 2 stars.

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  • Anna Forcey
  • 2021-09-10

One of the Greats

I read a lot of craft books (books on writing), and this one surprised me with Atwood's simple honesty and gruff charisma. She is very candid, well read, and mixes her thoughts on writing with a multitude of relatable anecdotes. If you write or are a fan of her work, definitely pick this one up. Her narration is also wonderful - it is very special when an author voices their own work.

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  • Sarge
  • 2021-08-02

I could have continued listening.

I could have continued listening but time ran out. I always appreciate it when the author reads their own work. Atwood’s insight is so precise and her references to other works not only brings the listener a broad spectrum of creative viewpoints but illustrates the broad foundation of literature that she draws from. The closing interview was audio shock after swimming lazily to the flow of Atwood’s voice. It took me a while to come around but I did eventually. I enjoyed my time.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-07-24

pensive Margaret Atwood

I really liked hearing the book read by Margaret Atwood herself. At times she put in almost too much detail, but overall it was very rewarding.

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  • J. S. Harbour
  • 2021-06-25

ponderous narration

a professional narrator should have been used. the others monotone voice at half speed is intolerable. if her mind works as slowly as her voice then she must take a very very long time to write a book.

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  • Anniken
  • 2021-06-19

The thoughts and life of Atwood

This book is a mix of biography for the author as well as thoughts and ideas about the writer and writing. While I found a lot of it thought provoking, I ultimately did myself a disservice by listening to it as an audiobook.
I can't deny that Atwood has a way with words, but it's a way that doesn't quite work for me, unfortunately, and combine that with my general need of being able to flip back and forth in craft books, I found myself being lost more often than not with this book. I even fell asleep at one point.

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  • James Adams
  • 2021-03-22

A soft-spoken brilliance

What a delightful experience to hear calm brilliance, wit and musings from what must be a Canadian national treasure. Required reading I’m sure for anyone remotely inspired to putting creative pen to paper, this book is a beautiful meditation on the relationship of the written word (thus its Writer) to the readers of said word. Count me, late again, a new fan of Ms. Atwood and her ilk: the un-young and too un-sung.

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  • SJSmith
  • 2021-03-20

For writers and readers alike

This little memoir was enormously helpful and insightful. I struggled with Ms. Atwood's vocal frying, but I still think it was important to hear it in her voice.