521 pages 1 Us
Ed edition (September 5, 2000)
Dell Pub (Trd); ISBN: 0385475721
Blind Assassin is a tale of two sisters, one of
whom dies under ambiguous circumstances in the opening pages.
The survivor, Iris Chase Griffen, initially seems a little
cold-blooded about this death in the family. But as Margaret
Atwood's most ambitious work unfolds--a tricky process, in
fact, with several nested narratives and even an entire novel-within-a-novel--we're
reminded of just how complicated the familial game of hide-and-seek
What had she been thinking of as the car sailed off the bridge,
then hung suspended in the afternoon sunlight, glinting like
a dragonfly, for that one instant of held breath before the
plummet? Of Alex, of Richard, of bad faith, of our father
and his wreckage; of God, perhaps, and her fatal, triangular
Meanwhile, Atwood immediately launches into an excerpt from
Laura Chase's novel, The
Blind Assassin, posthumously published in 1947.
In this double-decker concoction, a wealthy woman dabbles
in blue-collar passion, even as her lover regales her with
a series of science-fictional parables. Complicated? You bet.
But the author puts all this variegation to good use, taking
expert measure of our capacity for self-delusion and complicity,
not to mention desolation. Almost everybody in her sprawling
narrative manages to--or prefers to--overlook what's in plain
sight. And memory isn't much of a salve either, as Iris points
out: "Nothing is more difficult than to understand the dead,
I've found; but nothing is more dangerous than to ignore them."
Yet Atwood never succumbs to postmodern cynicism, or modish
contempt for her characters. On the contrary, she's capable
of great tenderness, and as we immerse ourselves in Iris's
spliced-in memoir, it's clear that this buttoned-up socialite
has been anything but blind to the chaos surrounding her.
September 3, 2000
Margaret Atwood has written a novel-within-a-novel
that involves watery death and a science fiction best seller.
By THOMAS MALLON
Nearly 20 years ago, in speaking of her craft, the novelist Margaret
Atwood observed that ''a character in a book who is consistently
well behaved probably spells disaster for the book.'' She might
have asserted the more general principle that consistent anything
in a character can prove tedious. If we apply the old Forsterian
standard that round characters are ones ''capable of surprising
in a convincing way,'' Atwood's new novel, for all its multilayered
story-within-a-story-within-a-story construction, must be judged
flat as a pancake. In ''The Blind Assassin,'' overlong and badly
written, our first impressions of the dramatis personae prove not
so much lasting as total. [read
Atwood Information Web Site - The author's personal site includes
biographical facts, awards, articles, transcripts, bibliography,
reviews, and links to other resources.
Atwood Society's Margaret Atwood Information Site - Includes
an overview of the Society and an extensive bibliography, as
well as links to other resources.
Rice's Margaret Atwood Site - Biography, awards, honorary
degrees, bibliography, and secondary criticisms.
Margaret Eleanor - Entry from The Canadian and World Encyclopedia.
Atwood - Review of 'Approaches to Teaching Atwood's The
Handmaid's Tale and Other Works'.
Poetry - Biography, poems, writing philosophy, and published
Books - Several newspaper articles.
Unofficial Shrine of Margaret Atwood - Brief biography,
bibliography, and review of Alias Grace.
the Wilderness: Margaret Atwood's Reading of Susanna Moodie
- Essay by Susan Johnston.
by Canadian Authors: Margaret Atwood - A brief profile and
bibliography from the B. Macabee's Booksellers website.
with Margaret Atwood - By Raymond H. Thompson in the series
'Thompson's Interviews with Authors of Modern Arthurian Literature'.
Atwood Discussion Forum - Post and read messages about Margaret
at a Glance - Reviews of several books.
Atwood: Once in August - Abstract of an hour-long video
about two film-makers' visit to Atwood's family retreat.
Guide's Honour - Review of Nathalie Cooke's 'Margaret Atwood:
- Margaret Atwood - An online community for book readers
and writers, including reading groups and message boards.