Margaret Atwood Reading Month: Quotations #MARM

This month, I have discovered that Margaret Atwood seems to have a wise word for just about everything.

Let’s have a look…

Youth: “When you’re young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You’re your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too—leave them behind. You don’t yet know about the habit they have, of coming back.” (The Blind Assassin)

Ageing:  “I’ve never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It’s probably because they have forgotten their own.”

“I believe that everyone else my age is an adult whereas I am merely in disguise.” (Cat’s Eye)

War: “War is what happens when language fails.”

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here.’ Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.”

Love: “I knew what love was supposed to be: obsession with undertones of nausea.” (Cat’s Eye)

“What restless woman can resist a man with a shovel in one hand and a glowing rose bush in the other, and a moderately crazed glitter in his eyes that might be mistaken for love?” (The Year of the Flood)

“Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes you can see more clearly than ever. It’s like the tide going out, revealing whatever’s been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future.” (Cat’s Eye)

The environment: “The threat to the planet is us. It’s actually not a threat to the planet – it’s a threat to us.”

“After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.” (Oryx and Crake)


Canadian Literature: “There is a sense in Canadian literature that the true and only season here is winter: the others are either preludes to it or mirages concealing it.” (Survival)

“One could ask: Why keep it afloat? Why give your blood? The general answer is the same as it always was: a country needs to hear its own voices, if it is to become or to remain an aware society and a functioning democracy.” (Survival)

Reading: “I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most.”

Writing: “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.” (Negotiating With the Dead)

“I think the main thing is: Just do it. Plunge in! Being Canadian, I go swimming in icy cold lakes, and there is always that dithering moment. ‘Am I really going to do this? Won’t it hurt?’ And at some point you just have to flop in there and scream. Once you’re in, keep going. You may have to crumple and toss, but we all do that. Courage! I think that is what’s most required.”

“Fiction is not necessarily about what you know, it’s about how you feel.”

“There’s the story, then there’s the real story, then there’s the story of how the story came to be told. Then there’s what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too.” (MaddAddam)

Books: “Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

Selfies: “I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature.”

Spring: “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

Motherhood: “Because I am a mother, I am capable of being shocked: as I never was when I was not one.”

“What fabrications they are, mothers. Scarecrows, wax dolls for us to stick pins into, crude diagrams. We deny them an existence of their own, we make them up to suit ourselves — our own hungers, our own wishes, our own deficiencies.” (The Blind Assassin)

Marriage: “Marriage is not a house or even a tent/ it is before that, and colder:/ the edge of the forest, the edge of the desert/ the unpainted stairs at the back where we squat outside, eating popcorn/ the edge of the receding glacier/ where painfully and with wonder/ at having survived even this far/ we are learning to make fire.” (Habitation)

Art: “When any civilization is dust and ashes… art is all that’s left over. Images, words, music. Imaginative structures. Meaning – human meaning, that is – is defined by them.” (Oryx and Crake)

Overall good life advice: “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” (The Handmaid’s Tale)

And I think we can all agree that Margaret’s got this one down: “A word after a word after a word is power.”

So if ever you find yourself in one of life’s ruts, just ask Margaret Atwood.

Do you have a favourite Margaret Atwood quote?


November 1: Beginnings (Links to this event can be found here (Naomi) and here (Marcie).)

November 8: Cover Images (hosted by Naomi at Consumed by Ink)

November 15: Favourites (hosted by Marcie at Buried in Print)

November 22: Quotations (hosted by Naomi at Consumed by Ink)

November 29: Endings (hosted by Marcie at Buried in Print)

November 30: A Round-Up of links collected from participants

You can find more information about this event in our announcement post here and here.

Remember: These weekly themes are in addition to any book, story, poem, essay, interview, article, etc. you want to read (or watch) over the month and discuss on your blogs or on Twitter.  #MARM

Happy Reading! 

17 thoughts on “Margaret Atwood Reading Month: Quotations #MARM

    • Naomi says:

      I had so much fun putting this together. I think I could have added many more categories and quotes – something to cover almost every aspect of life! Amazing!

      • Sarah Emsley says:

        These are fabulous. Would you consider putting together a second collection? I’d love to read it if you do. I particularly like “you just have to flop in there and scream.”

      • Naomi says:

        Yes! I love that, too!
        I would definitely consider it – time is the only issue. But it’s nice to know I would have at least one reader for it. 🙂

  1. Vishy says:

    Beautiful quotes, Naomi! My favourites are the one about the environment and the one about how anything can happen given the right circumstances. Thanks so much for sharing! Love #MARM!

  2. buriedinprint says:

    Some of these I feel like I recognize when I read them, but so many of them just seem like “something she would say”. It really says something, I think, when you feel like you have such a sense of how someone – a public figure, I mean, an artist, not someone you know personally – would think about, say, learning from what we read, about the importance of feeling in the process of reading fiction, that kind of thing. You’ve really done a terrific job of gathering these up, Naomi! I’m so impressed, and I echo Sarah’s enthusiasm for another installment. Maybe next November!? 😀

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