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Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing
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Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  1,601 ratings  ·  160 reviews
Acclaimed author Margaret Atwood’s definitive look at the role of the writer.

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 the development of her writing career, Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors that writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain -- or excuse -- their
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Anchor Canada (first published March 6th 2002)
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Atwood writing about how she became a writer, what it means to be a writer, and why writers do what they do.
If, in my struggles to be a writer, I manage to become even half as talented as Margaret Atwood, that will be enough. That's really all I can think of to say, so I'll just share some of my favorite parts of the book (warning - I had a lot of favorite parts):

"Around the age of seven I wrote a play. The protagonist was a giant; the theme was crime and punishment; the crime was lying, as befi
Margaret Atwood is, I tentatively conclude, not really the kind of writer I truly enjoy. I can appreciate her work, but I don't fall in love with it. I'm not sure why, altogether: partially, perhaps, because I think I could pinpoint her as the author of something without knowing. Her style gets between me and the narrative.

Her style is apparent even in her non-fiction book about writing. It's a collection of connected essays. The essays didn't feel particularly conclusive, though. Interesting, y
Margaret Atwood claims she is just a regular person, but this book leaves no doubt about that claim. She isn't. Written in response to a request to be the Empson lecturer at the University of Cambridge, a series of five lectures, here worked into chapters, explains how it "is" to be a writer. One "how" that resonated with me was the writer as a creator and the writer as a person who does the laundry; the dishes and puts gas in the car. She writes beautifully about the duality of this relationshi ...more
May 20, 2008 Ollie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
What makes someone a writer? What's the role of the writer in the world today? Should she write just for Art's sake or does she have a social responsibility? Is there a third way? And is there an underlying (and universal) psychological reason behind every writer's desire to put words to paper? Margaret Atwood answers all these questions, and more, in six essays which were originally lectures given at Cambridge University.

The great thing about Atwood is that she doesn't place herself, or anyone
إبراهيم   عادل
مشكلتي الأساسية مع هذا الكتاب أني توقعت منه أكثر بكثيرٍ مما جاء فيه..
في نحو 200 صفحة تتعرَّض الكاتبة والباحثة (في هذا الكتاب) مارجريت أتوود لعددٍ من مشكلات/أسئلة الكتابة ولكنها بدلاً من أن تتحدث عن رؤيتها الخاصة تستنطق وتبحث في عدد من الروايات والقصائد من حولها،

في الفصل الأخير، بعنوان (مفاوضات مع الموتى) فقط يتضح للقارئ لماذا اختارت الكاتبة هذا الاسم، في أنها تعتبر الكتابة بشكلٍ عام مفاوضات مع الموتى كونها السبيل للخلود والحياة الأبدية، وهي في هذا السياق تستحضر ما كتبه عدد من الروائيين، وب
Kate Savage
I was reminded of something a medical student said to me about the interior of the human body, forty years ago: “It’s dark in there.”

Possibly, then, writing has to do with darkness, and a desire or perhaps a compulsion to enter it, and, with luck, to illuminate it, and to bring something back out to the light. This book is about that kind of darkness, and that kind of desire.

The writers I love are the ones who say writing is an act of sinking, emptiness, the shock of the void and the plea
Amber Tucker
Someone's looking out for me up there. Last spring I happened upon Northrop Frye's Educated Imagination, and devoured it (and have since done so a few more times). More recently, I bought Margaret Atwood's Negotiating with the Dead, only because I'd enjoyed some of her poetry and this was in a blow-out sale at Coles. Like Frye's Massey Lectures, it's one of those books that has changed the way I think about literature and writing. What's astonishing to me is how well one follows upon the other. ...more
Margaret Atwood made me get teary-eyed on the subway while reading this book.

"Negotiating With the Dead" is a reflection on the roles of writers and their readers, adapted and somewhat expanded from the Empson Lectures which Margaret Atwood delivered at Cambridge University in 2000. It is breathtakingly erudite and eclectic, but is also interwoven with very personal and down-to-earth recollections and episodes from Atwood's own journey as both a writer and a reader. It was a sweet reminiscence a
Into the Labyrinth: A Writer on Writing.

Why Write?

To record the world as it is. To set down the past before it is all forgotten. To excavate the past because it has been forgotten. To satisfy my desire for revenge. Because I knew I had to keep writing or else I would die. Because to write is to take risks, and it is only by taking risks that we know we are alive. To produce order out of chaos. To delight and instruct (not often found after the early twentieth century, or not in that form). To pl
Martin Ainsley
I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. But my initial enthusiasm faded a little with each chapter until, a few months ago, within thirty pages of the endnotes, I just put it down and haven't felt any inclination to pick it up again. Atwood has a way with words (duh), but I think this works against her when she writes essays; what feel like profound insights when you read them, because of the clever, aphoristic turns of phrase, end up looking more like hollow abstractions when you get a littl ...more
Adrian Stumpp
This is Atwood's obligatory book about writing, although it really has nothing to with writing and more to do with being a writer. It's a quick read with lots of musings on the writer's life, the power of art, and things like that. Present is Atwood's characteristic storytelling style. The anecdotes are well rendered and insightful. Not recommended for those in search of a true "writing" book, but previously established fans of Atwood's work should find this book worth reading.


2002 Hardcover edition published by Cambridge University (ISBN 0-521-66260-5)

Page 5 - "No writer emerges from childhood into a pristine environment, free from other people's biases about writers. All of us bump against a number of preconceptions about what we are or ought to be like, what constitutes good writing, and what social functions writing fulfills, or ought to fulfill. All of us develop our own ideas about what
Jan 21, 2009 Cynthia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
Shelves: myfavorites
This is possibly my favorite Atwood ever. It is intensely personal, from a series of lectures she gave. The final chapter especially, is incredible.

(p.10) "When I was eight we moved again, to another postwar bungalow, this time nearer the center of Toronto, at that time a stodgy provincial city of seven hundred thousand. I was now faced with real life, in the form of other little girls--their prudery and snobbery, their Byzantine social life based on whispering and vicious gossip, and an inabil
Ben Dutton
Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead is her Empson lectures extended into book form. She’s been at the writing game a very long time and she has much to say – much of it will be familiar to other writers and to those interested in how to write – but she has enough original thought to make certain chapters really stand out – particularly the final two chapters, I felt. She occasional does bang a drum I no longer thought valid – the lack of authority given to female writers and poets – thin ...more
Charles Matthews
Margaret Atwood is maybe the only famous writer with whom I have been personally acquainted. And that was a long time ago, when we were graduate students at Harvard. She wasn't famous then, except in Canada, where one of her books of poetry had won the Governor General's Award, but we were sure she would be. Based on a series of lectures she gave at Cambridge University, this book includes some amusing insights into how her personality, interests and career were shaped by growing up in Canada in ...more
Josh Ang
A collection of six essays that gives as much insight into the author as much as it does the strange trade of creative writing. For example, Atwood has at various junctures in her prolific and enduring career resisted the feminist writer label, claiming instead she is merely a woman writer writing about the experiences of women. The reader gets a sense of where she is coming from when Atwood recounts her early childhood isolation from other girls, which may have impacted her view of women and th ...more
A 4.5

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking read, which came as no surprise based on how much I enjoy Atwood’s writing.

My favorite chapter was the first, where she gave an account of her early life, and how she “became” a writer. I enjoyed Atwood’s vulnerability and willingness to offer up stray thoughts. For her the journey is a bit of a mystery, and I appreciate her being honest about it.

The biggest takeaway for me is that I finally realized why I love Atwood’s stories of wome
Volumul reprezintă nu numai un fel ghid pentru viitorii scriitori – plin de multe, foarte multe întrebări la care aceștia trebuie să-și răspundă mai devreme sau mai târziu –, ci și o biografie a autoarei – o biografie literară, dacă vreți –, dar acest aspect are, mai degrabă, un rol de fundal. În fapt, avem o serie de conferințe, ținute în cadrul ciclului de prelegeri Empson, la Universitatea Cambridge, coerența volumului, nefiind, totuși, afectată de acest amănunt. Întrebările de la care porneș ...more
Up Late with Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is a literary goddess. If you haven’t read her most recent collection of short stories, Stone Mattress, move that to your number own spot on your to-reads list (recently reviewed here by Sarah Rito). Since I’d already read it (and reviewed it on WPSU), I went back to a book she wrote that I’d somehow missed: Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. This non-fiction book was exactly what I needed
"This was very reassuring to me. The books were declaring that they were my pals; they promise to accompany me on my travels; and they would not only offer me some helpful hints, they'd be right there by my side whenever I needed them. It's always nice to have someone you can depend on."

I did finish Negotiating With the Dead. I had mixed feelings about it. She does mention, in the introduction that this was not about her writing life, but that is what I really wanted. She is so smart and incredi
Lee Kofman
I expected more from this book. In fact, I was fairly certain I was going to enjoy this collection of essays on writing, because I love reading what successful literary writers have to say about their vocation. Plus, this book is erudite. I had previously glimpsed its bibliography and was impressed by the breadth of references ranging from Canetti to contemporary Irish poetry. However, behind Atwood's polished – often original – prose and numerous quotations from other writers, I found the ideas ...more
AC Fick
Mordant wit, wicked sense of fun: Atwood is uncanny and reading her work can best be described as "waltzing again", to use her metaphor, mixed with Toni Morrison's notion of "the dancing mind". The readerly dance with Atwood is both enervating and energising: you realise your partner is good, but they are so good they make your pedestrian efforts feel as good.
I liked the first couple of chapters of this book as it gave background on Margaret Atwood's start as a writer. The latter chapters became quite esoteric and she lost me at times. If you like Margaret Atwood, then by all means read this book but if you're looking for something to encourage you in a writing career, I would skip this book.
A set of lectures on writing by Margaret Atwood, revised into essays. An excellent glimpse inside her marvelous brain. A bit more of her humor comes through here than in her novels, which is a rewarding aspect. I don't know how much fun it would be for non-Atwood or non-writing-process fans, but for me it was pretty great.
Wow. I borrowed this from the library, now I have to buy it. It's thick with insight into the work, the joy, the responsibility, and the wonder of being a writer. There's no way it all sunk in on one read through. I'll be revisiting this book many times.
A great book to read for writers who’ve started out and/or published something and are starting to think about those great, ever-present questions: Why do I write? Who am I writing for? What haunts me (and does it find its way into my writing)? and Is all my writing/art really driven by death (sex and regeneration)? She also delves into the Art for Art’s sake vs. Art for Money’s sake, and covers a few other sakes as well in the bargain, all injected with humorous quips that made this an enjoyabl ...more
لا أتذكر فعليًا إن كنت أنهيته أم لا..لكني اتذكر جيدًا أنه كتاب ممتع.
جابر طاحون
كتاب عن الكتابة مع انه لبس عن كيفية الكتابة ، و هو أيضًا ليس عن كتابة شخص بعينه .إنه عن الموقف الذي تجد فيه الكاتبة نفسها فيه / و الذي قلما يختلف من كاتب لآخر . يناقش الكتاب ماهية الكتابة و هل هي نشاط انساني ؟ أم مهنة ؟ أم عمل مضجر من أجل المال أو لعلها فن !

اختار مارجريت أتوود _ صاحبة رواية القاتل الحائزة علي البوكر _ العنوان " مفاوضات مع الموتي " علي فرض أن كل الكتابات الروائية، وليس بعضها ، بل ربما كل أنماط الكتابةيحركها و يدفعها من الأعماق خوف من الفناء و افتتان به .

إذا أردت بصيرة تصنع بها
Lisa Louie
In this collection of essays, Atwood explores the psycho-social realities of writing and being a Writer (capital W), while drawing upon a wealth of literary references and examples to illustrate her points. For me, the most memorable of these essays was the one in which Atwood described the doppelganger self of the Writer; the person who writes is both ordinary human being and this writing self, and as such, often lives a divided life. As an ordinary human being, the person who writes is rather ...more
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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, 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 writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr
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“There's an epigram tacked to my office bulletin board, pinched from a magazine -- "Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.” 236 likes
“My own view of myself was that I was small and innocuous, a marshmallow compared to the others. I was a poor shot with a 22, for instance, and not very good with an ax. It took me a long time to figure out that the youngest in a family of dragons is still a dragon from the point of view of those who find dragons alarming.” 12 likes
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