Novelist Atwood Visits City Library

Bestselling author Margaret Atwood read excerpts and signed copies of her latest novel, The Robber Bride, at the Cambridge Public Library last night.

The reading, part of "The Author Series," was co-sponsored by the Harvard Book Store and the Cambridge Public Library. More than 500 people attended.

"I am always delighted to return to Cambridge," said Atwood, who received her master's degree from Radcliffe College in 1962.

The Robber Bride explores the character of a female villain who torments the lives of three other women throughout the novel.

In some ways, the novel is similar to the Grimm fairy tale, "The Robber Bridegroom," with the exception that the gender of the main character is changed, Atwood said.


In "The Robber Bridegroom," the protagonist appears to be a perfect gentleman, but in reality, he is a cannibal who preys upon innocent young maidens. How does this translate with a female character? Atwood answers that you must read to find out.

"I don't agree with the notion that women are born somehow deprived of the capacity... to do malicious things," Atwood said.

"Women lie, cheat and steal," she added.

Atwood, who is from Toronto, also discussed the differences in attitude between the American and Canadian public. "I am lucky to be Canadian because we never got told that a woman couldn't write," Atwood said.

In a question and answer session after the reading, Atwood talked about the difficulties of being a writer.

"Writing is a struggle with language," shesaid, in which the most difficult part isstarting.

Atwood said she has twice thrown out workswhich were 250 pages long.

"It is a lot of work which may be thrown out,"Atwood said.

The Handmaid's Tale, one of Atwood'smost popular novels, was recently made into amovie. Atwood praised the "great performances" inthe film but also said it was different from herbook.

"Movies are not books," said Atwood. "They aremade in a different way. There are things you cando with words that you can't do with images."

Atwood also said she plans to release acollection of prose poems, which she calls"quasi-poetry," in the near future.

Harvard students in attendance said they wereoverwhelmed by the event.

"She's my favorite author in the whole world,"said Julianne R. Marashian '97. "I was shaking."

"I have always admired her as a feministauthor," said Katie A. Malachuk '96. "She has asubtle way of expressing feminist ideas...whichmakes them more empowering. She isn't just anovelist, she's got huge ideas about society thatshe is trying to communicate."

Susan M. Flannery, director of the CambridgePublic Library, said the reading helped bringtogether the local community and a renownedauthor.

"It was wonderful. This is exactly what weexist for, to bring people and books together andto expose the community to great writing and greatwriters," she said