Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2020: Week 1

This year, for #MARM, we’re playing BINGO. How prepared am I? It depends… I am well prepared for a month of reading Atwood’s work, but I’m not sure how that’s going to translate to the Bingo grid.

The novel I chose to read this year is Hag-Seed, and I am happy to say I have already read it. So I can cross off my first box. I’m also armed with poetry, stories, and essays. I even have one of her graphic novels and a Graeme Gibson book on the way.

I have everything I need for the top line. Except time. I could do an “X”, or the four corners. I even thought about making the letter “N” for my name. Or a checkerboard pattern. Like Marcie, I seem to be heading for confetti-style, if only that were a thing.

For now, I will bask in my finished novel.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Let me start by saying that I have never read Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I have an idea of what happens, partly because I read Tempest Tost by Robertson Davies a few years ago and may have half-heartedly looked it up then. I thought about reading it first, but I really didn’t want to. So, instead, I consulted Sparks Notes every once in a while as I read the novel to see how things tied together.

I can see Hag-Seed being made into a slap-stick comedy. I found it highly entertaining with some scenes bordering on ludicrous (such as the revenge scene). Even the tragedy of Felix’s life didn’t strike me as tragic. We are never given the chance to think about it enough to feel sad.

Felix is “unhealthily obsessed” with putting on The Tempest at his town’s theatre. Besides the fact that he usually throws his all into his art, this time he is also hoping to “resurrect” his dead daughter, Miranda, in a way. (“What he couldn’t have in life he might still catch sight of through his art: just a glimpse from the corner of his eye.”) So when he is ousted from his position, he takes it hard and disappears. Not just for a while, either – for years. Stewing, and plotting his revenge on the men he holds responsible. (“Where had Felix gone? It was a mystery, but not one that anyone appeared dedicated to solving.”)

My favourite sections of the book are the ones that take place inside the prison. Particularly, the creative ways in which Felix, as the teacher, gets the prisoners involved in the process of reading, understanding, and acting out the Shakespeare play they perform once a year for the other inmates. For example, the only curse words the students are allowed to utter in class must come from the Shakespeare play. If the students are studying MacBeth they might say, “The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon.”

Watching the many faces watching their own faces as they pretended to be someone else – Felix found that strangely moving. For once in their lives, they loved themselves.

Don’t forget to check out Marcie’s plans for the month. We’ll see you back here next Monday for an update!

What are your MARM BINGO plans?

Margaret Atwood Reading Month is hosted here and by Marcie at Buried in Print and inspired by decades of reading Margaret Atwood’s words. From Sunday November 1st to Monday November 30th, we’ll be reading Margaret Atwood, and we invite you to join in!

30 thoughts on “Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2020: Week 1

    • Naomi says:

      I’m sorry to hear you’re in a reading slump. But your books will be waiting for you when you’re ready! Hag-Seed is definitely a good one to read if you’re looking for something entertaining and not too heavy!

  1. Rebecca Foster says:

    I loved how Hag-Seed played with the Shakespearean material but also did its own thing. The rapping cracked me up! It’s my favourite of her recent books.

    I would say I’m working on the top line — I started a story collection last night, and I have a poetry volume on the way — but I don’t think there’s any way I could fit in the other squares!

    • buriedinprint says:

      Maybe there’s an “R” in there that would be easier to catch if you were to include the “Free” Space? *giggles* (Why is this so fun?!)

    • Naomi says:

      The top line really appeals to me, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to fit it all in. We will see!

      I think it would be hard to write a book based on someone’s else’s idea, but it felt like it just flowed out of her effortlessly. And like she had a lot of fun with it, too!

  2. buriedinprint says:

    Ohhh! I love the idea of your doing an “N”. Now I’ll have to check and see if I could aim for an “M”, but I have a feeling it’s still Confetti style for me. (Well, at least nobody can say that we rigged the game to accommodate our own specific reading plans! LOL) Your pile looks juicy!

    • Naomi says:

      Haha! That’s true!
      You could totally do an “M”! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Here’s a question: Can we use the same book/source for more than one square? (Only just thought of this now!)

      • buriedinprint says:

        I like the idea of participants deciding for themselves; I feel like, when hosts announce that you can double-count, it becomes a challenge to see how little one can do by making winning combo’s, and that doesn’t seem fair to anyone who’s made/making distinct choices for each category, but it’s also a game and intended to be fun, so I think doubling up on a couple of things would be harmless. Besides, the only reward at stake is bragging rights! What do you think?

  3. wadholloway says:

    Good luck with your card, however it turns out. I enjoy ‘months’ but at this late date I’m not sure I’ll manage to get even one square. I’ll see what the library system has as audiobooks.

  4. Brona says:

    I’ve been saving The Penelopiad for Nov. It’s attraction right now is it’s slim size, meaning it also fits for Novellas in November ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Naomi says:

      Sounds perfect!
      I was trying to find a novella that would also fit with AusReading Month, but didn’t have any luck. Do you have any recommendations? (I asked you this in a comment on your blog, but just in case my comment doesn’t come through…)

      • buriedinprint says:

        Helen Garner’s The Children’s Bach is a popular choice for a classic Aussie-novella, and might not be hard to find via ILL over here, but I’m sure Brona will have some more contemporary choices/rec’s for you!

      • Naomi says:

        We don’t even have that one through ILL. I almost requested one of her others, but knew that ILL would take too long. Maybe next year!

      • Brona says:

        I did get your comment thank you Naomi, but I’ve been spun off down a rabbit hole of trying to find a definitive list of Australian novellas! There is no such thing it would seem, so I am attempting to compile one (the things we do!)

        But Nick Earls has a few books that are classified as novellas (, as does Helen Garner (The Children’s Bach). The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough also fits this bill. David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life is a novella about Ovid. The Cockatoos (now published by Text Classics) is a collection of novellas by Patrick White. There are more and I will put together a bigger list some time this month (I hope!)

      • wadholloway says:

        Brona, Naomi. I’m just sitting down to write my #AusReading2020 post, and I was going to/might still mention Murray Bail’s Eucalyptus in this context (but Wiki says 264pp). Looking round my shelves at books with narrow spines I see Malouf, Fly Away Peter, 134pp, Thea Astley, Coda, 186pp, Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock, 186pp. I’m sure there’s hundreds more. What’s your page limit Brona?

      • Brona says:

        Cathy has a 150pg suggestion on her master post, with an upper limit of 200pgs. I believe word count of 17,500 to 39,999 is the norm, but most books donโ€™t come with that detail included ๐Ÿ˜Š

      • Naomi says:

        Thanks for the suggestions, Bill! ๐Ÿ™‚
        For me, I would say a page count under 200, but I try to get even lower if I can.

  5. haoyando says:

    I love Margaret Atwood’s book. “Stone Mattress and other stories” is my favorite. “Robber Bride” is also wonderful. I only read 30% of Hag-Seed and this reminds me to finish it. Happy Reading!

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