The 100 Books Project: Negotiating with the Dead.

It’s a jungle out there in alphabet-land.


“Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing” by Margaret Atwood

I may be a little biased, since I truly enjoy Margaret Atwood’s writing, but I believe that her collection of essays on writing, reading, and being a writer should be reading for anyone who has ever wanted to stand up and call themselves “writer.” Through her own experiences and delightful references to a wide variety of other writers and culture and mythology, Atwood offers six essays on why we write, who we write for, and what exactly to do about it. Her thoughts on the duplicate nature of being a writer, of the singular act of reading, on the “cog-eat-cog” world of the publishing industry, and the idea that, as writers, we, like so many mythological figures before us, are negotiating with the dead for a chance to visit some Other World; not only visit it, but come back from it, and bearing the fruits of our journey to show the world, writing it on a stone to share like Gilgamesh. Reading this book, one can’t help feel a little intimidated by the world of writing and everything it usually sucks out of a person, but one also can’t help feeling absolutely inspired at the same time. You want that drain. You are a writer.

This is my second time reading Negotiating with the Dead, and I think it’s one of those books I might resolve to read at least once a year. It’s a very nice prod into considering this thing we call writing a bit more seriously than before, and Atwood litters it with poignant quotes and vignettes about herself and other writers. In a way, this book is part of my inspiration for this blog. There’s a lot out there to write about, but writing about writing is a completely viable option, too. The only difference is that Atwood has quite a bit more experience than I do. I would be honoured if I were to ever get to her level of knowledge and prestige, though.

One of my favourite handbooks on writing; it does not tell you how to write, but it definitely shows you why.

Books read: 23 out of 100.

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