SECOND WORDS by Margaret Atwood


Selected Critical Prose
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Canadian novelist/poet Atwood makes no large claims for the reviews and talks collected in this bulky volume. She declares that these pieces were often unwelcome assignments, that they were painful to do, that she usually acknowledged them only with embarrassment. And though this semi-disavowal has charm, the fact is that Atwood's modesty seems well-placed: few of these entries have much substance, Early on in this 1960-1982 gathering, indeed, Atwood sounds little more confident than a book-report writer. ("Reeve's book is probably the best and most comprehensive study of Blok written in English. Despite its occasional murkiness, it is stimulating reading for anyone concerned with the history of modern poetry.") Later, her opinions do grow sharper--though they're generally heavily dependent on pigeon-holing: in a collection dominated by Canadian book-world concerns, Atwood spends much of her time contrasting Canadian literary/social categories with American or English ones. Moreover, throughout the talks and addresses here, she frequently repeats herself--explaining again and again why she holds certain views (the literary-figure-as.personality) instead of developing those viewpoints in more depth. And only in three longer, more fully-worked out essays--on H. Rider Haggard, Canadian poet Al Purdy, and problems of the contemporary novel--does Atwood emerge as a full-fledged critic. In sum: a generous yet lightweight assemblage, with little interest to those not specializing in Canadian literature.
Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1983
ISBN: 0887846548
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1983


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