Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2020: Week 2

Last week, having read Hag-Seed, I got to mark off one box on the Bingo grid. This week, I mark off two more. But, looking at the grid, they really couldn’t be less useful for forming some sort of line or pattern.

Some of you might be surprised to hear that I decided to try Atwood’s graphic novel, Angel Catbird. Maybe not as surprised as some might have been to discover that Atwood was writing one in the first place.

In the introduction to the graphic novel–probably my favourite part of the book–Margaret Atwood talks about her life-long interest in reading and creating comics. Who knew?

Why is a nice literary old lady like me–an award-winning nice literary old lady–a nice literary old lady who should be resting on her laurels in her rocking chair, being dignified and iconic–why is such a nice old lady messing around with flying cat-owl superheroes and nightclubs for cat people, not to mention giant rat men? Strange.

Check out this article in which Margaret reflects on her This Magazine comic strip Kanadian Kultchur Komics.

Angel Catbird is a story about a man who, because of a freak accident, turns into a human who is also part cat and part bird. The interesting thing about this is his contradictory feelings/instincts – should he eat the bird, or save the bird? Of course, there is a villain (part human, part rat) and a love interest (part human, part cat). What Angel Catbird has going for him are his wings.

I did end up enjoying the novel, and the illustrator is obviously very talented, but to say that I’m dying to find out what happens next (in volumes 2 and 3) would be an overstatement. Curious might be a better word. Maybe next year I’ll find out if Muroid’s rat army is a success…

There is one more aspect to Atwood’s graphic novel project, and that is science and conservation. Along the bottom of some of the pages you can find statistics put out by Nature Canada who are running a #safecatsafebird campaign to “urge cat owners not to let their cats range freely”.

I enjoyed the “extras” at the end of the book: catbird art by other artists; sketches and ideas by Johnnie Christmas, and the colour process by Tamra Bonvillain. The last panel shows drawings made by Margaret herself!

The other thing I read this week was Atwood’s short story Bluebeard’s Egg. I couldn’t resist after reading that Marcie once thought “it was e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.” Will she still think so after a re-read?

Bluebeard’s Egg is mainly a reflection of Sally on her husband Ed – why she picked him, why she loves him. And this is the kind of thing I find irresistible. Especially after she says she loves him because he’s stupid; not despite being stupid, but because.

For it must be admitted: Sally is in love with Ed because of his stupidity, his monumental and almost energetic stupidity: energetic, because Ed’s stupidity is not passive… It fills her with wonder that the world can contain such marvels as Ed’s colossal and endearing thickness.

On good days she sees his stupidity as innocence, lamb-like, shining with the light of (for instance) green daisied meadows in the sun… On bad days though, she sees his stupidity as wilfulness, a stubborn determination to shut things out. His obtuseness is a wall, within which he can go about his business, humming to himself, while Sally, locked outside, must hack her way through the brambles with hardly so much as a transparent raincoat between them and her skin.

But then again, “Possibly Ed is not stupid. Possibly he’s enormously clever.”

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!

17 thoughts on “Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2020: Week 2

  1. buriedinprint says:

    OoooOOooo, I a-l-m-o-s-t read “Bluebeard’s Egg” yesterday and then decided, at the last minute, to read a little more of Cat’s Eye instead. The quote you’ve pulled made me laugh. I know what you mean about the squares not being grouped. It’s like we are TRYING not to make a line. 😮

    • Naomi says:

      I know! We really should have planned better! 🙂

      You’ll have to read Bluebeard’s Egg sometime this month, or I will die of curiosity. Wow, I must be such a nerd. Lol

    • Naomi says:

      I think there are three Angel Catbird volumes and also one called War Bears!

      Right now I’m dipping in and out of Waltzing Again and about to read from In Other Worlds, a group of essays about science fiction. I also have a couple of poetry books. I’m trying to read a few things I wouldn’t normally read.

      Thanks for visiting! 🙂

  2. Rebecca Foster says:

    I read Atwood’s other graphic novel, War Bears, from the library and can’t say I was that impressed. Then again, it was about a very niche aspect of Canadian wartime history. I would read Angel Catbird if I ever found a copy at a library. It’s interesting to hear that it has a conservation focus. Do your cats go outside? Ours does, but he’s so lazy and timid that he doesn’t leave our garden and usually not even the patio. But last year he had a feral spell and caught a few baby birds and a mouse 😦

    I’m halfway through Wilderness Tips and there have been a few stories I really enjoyed. Summer camp was an unexpected link between two of them.

    • Naomi says:

      Yes, all our cats go outside! And now I feel so guilty! They do catch birds, but are more likely to catch mice and rats – at least from the evidence I’ve seen. I tried putting the bell collars on them, but they always came off!

      Looking forward to your thoughts on Wilderness Tips! 🙂

  3. Jane says:

    I haven’t read Bluebirds Egg and I must! We could all reflect for hours on why we’ve chosen our partners and friends couldn’t we?! I clearly haven’t read enough Atwood.

  4. annelogan17 says:

    I must admit I have no desire to read her graphic novels. I mean, good on her for branching out, but I just can’t see myself ever picking one up. Same as the Oryx and Crake series, I didn’t love it…

    • Naomi says:

      I thought the same thing… it’s funny how a reading challenge and Bingo grid can change your mind! Lol
      I ended up loving the Oryx and Crake series, but can see why not everyone would.

  5. Karissa says:

    That quote from Atwood made me laugh because I definitely don’t think of her as a nice old lady in a rocking chair. I mean, I’m sure she’s nice and she’s not young but everything I’ve ever heard about her makes me think she is not one to sit around speaking softly in a rocking chair!

  6. madamebibilophile says:

    It’s been years since I read Bluebeard’s Egg, I’m quite tempted to dig it out again. I’m beginning to think that even though i’ve always loved her writing, my teens was probably too young to start Atwood, and I should do an epic re-read!

    I attended an online event this week to promote Dearly and she was just wonderful 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      I bet that was amazing! I’ve got Dearly on hold at the library… I don’t think it’ll be here in time for MARM, but I’m really looking forward to it!

      I think you’re right… I really like her work a lot more now than I did when I was young.

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