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On Writers and Writing

Written by: Margaret Atwood
Narrated by: Margaret Atwood
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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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Very inspiring

Loved all of the writing advice and perspectives of other writers provided to accompany her narrative.

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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.

23 people found this helpful

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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.

7 people found this helpful

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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.

7 people found this helpful

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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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  • 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!

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  • Kirsty
  • 2022-02-11

Fantastic!

I have read (almost) all of Margaret Atwood’s fiction, so when I found ‘On Writers and Writing’, I was very excited. I had some expectation of what would happen when I listened. I was wrong. This is a lecture series read by Margaret Atwood. There is a live interview at the end. Each section delves into writing and writers from different perspectives, which is fantastic! Since I came to the text with expectations that were not met I was initially confused and kept expecting something else. When I realized what I was listening to, and that I was an idiot, I started from the beginning again. Thank god. Because this is, as I say, brilliant. Listen, listen properly, stop messing around and dreaming. Wake up and listen to Margaret Atwood because she knows what she’s talking about.

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  • Ari
  • 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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  • Ryan Clark
  • 2022-11-12

A Gift to Chew Not Imbibe

Reading @therealmargaretatwood’s #OnWritersAndWriting could have threatened the knowing that I am writer though I’m not writing, but I remained largely unscathed. It also could have inspired or grounded the knowing, but I’m not certain it did that either. There were times I hit “huh, I never thought of it that way,” and I am always seeking that out and seldom finding it, so goodie, but I found myself largely just getting through the audiobook. My #adhd tendencies drifted me away from being able to focus more than usual, in part, because it was an intellectual feat to stay on track.

It’s not the kind of book with steps and bullet points and tips and tricks. It’s more of an essay, an attempt, to metatextually embody what is writing, the writer, and the others too. And it does.

Don’t get me wrong. Atwood is brilliant and this work is true to her brilliance. It is inspiring and revealing.

But it’s heavy lifting.

It’s riddled with scholarly references of stories, tales, and works I was largely not familiar with. They may have been minimally obscure works I would have encountered had I been in a situation to go to grad school for literature. She explained them well enough without being condescending, it was very honorable to this ignorant reader. I could still follow and get the gist. But it was work.

I think I would prefer to consume this as a handbook. A little at a time, at my own pace, as needed. It would need be a physical copy. And it would likely sit on my desk for accessibility when the mood struck. I’m certain I would like a paragraph or page at a time more than the unrestrained flow of narration.

And the narration. Atwood was 81 the day this was released. It’s a gift we got to hear this work in her own voice. Yes it’s gravely, more so at times than others. It has the dignified monotone of the high brow, scholarly reciter of their own work. That can be intimidating or grounding or annoying or inspiring. I found it to be a gift.

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  • Ella
  • 2022-03-12

amazing book

amazing book, I need to reread some of my old books with a new perspective/light

1 person found this helpful

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  • Minai
  • 2022-12-19

anything on writing

How could I not enjoy Margaret Atwood reading her own work? Great for those, who are interested in writing or publishing their own books.