Even though the whimsical Canadian author adheres to the adage, "never predict the future," preferring to make "educated guesses about it," Margaret Atwood plans on two separate appearances in Grand Rapids on Thursday.
Atwood is the author of more than 35 works, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, critical essays and reviews. She is perhaps best known for her dystopia "The Handmaid's Tale," "Oryx &Crake" and Booker Prize-winning "The Blind Assassin."
While abstaining from commenting on her own works -- "I never describe my writing" -- Atwood leaves the job to the literary, and non-literary, gadflies. Frequently, her works employ multiple points of view, the macabre and gothic, as well as nature -- used as conduits through which the author explores the tensions in female-male relationships and female-female relationships.
This month, she will release "The Penelopiad," a retelling of Homer's "The Odyssey," with Penelope and a collective chorus consisting of Homer's hanged maids as dual point-of-views. The gender issues-infused rewriting will appear as part of Canongate Book's international "The Myth Series," employing some 24 international publishing houses and approximately a dozen writers worldwide to retell traditional myths.
Also, the novel will be staged in London by the director of "The Handmaid's Tale" opera, Phyllida Lloyd. The staged reading will feature Atwood as Penelope.
... more. Perhaps a sense of what the tome will be like can be had from an excerpt from the foreword on the UK publisher's site:
"But Homer's Odyssey is not the only version of the story. Mythic material was originally oral, and also local - a myth would be told one way in one place and quite differently in another. I have drawn on material other than the Odyssey, especially for the details of Penelope's parentage, her early life and marriage, and the scandalous rumours circulating about her.
"I've chosen to give the telling of the story to Penelope and to the twelve hanged Maids. The Maids form a chanting and singing Chorus which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of the Odyssey: what led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in the Odyssey doesn't hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I've always been haunted by the hanged maids; and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself."