The Jumble of Ideas: Margaret Atwood

The following is from an old interview with Margaret Atwood in The Paris Review:

Interviewer: Yet you write as if you’ve lived through violence.

Atwood: But I write as if I’ve lived a lot of things I haven’t lived. I’ve never lived with cancer. I’ve never been fat. I have different sensibilities. In my critical work I’m an eighteenth-century rationalist of some kind. In my poetry I’m not at all. There’s no way of knowing in advance what will get into your work. One collects all the shiny objects that catch the fancy—a great array of them. Some of them you think are utterly useless. I have a large collection of curios of that kind, and every once in a while I need one of them. They’re in my head, but who knows where! It’s such a jumble in there. It’s hard to find anything. (italics added)

The italicized part seems so exceptionally wise to me, delivered with such a dash of humor, that I feel woozy. The writer’s mind is filled with snatches of remembered images, occurrences, and overheard statements, and sometimes the task of writing is to pull them out, consider them, rearrange them, test their edges, see if they come to life.

You can read the entire interview here.


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