Weekly Theme: The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

This will be the only mention of it on the blog, but I have to put it out there. RuPaul's Drag Race is one of the better reality shows to come around in a long time. Part Top Model, part Project Runway, and a whole lot of campy fun. You know the production staff gets the joke because the contestants and RuPaul are given exaggerated soft filter lighting (pink, at that) every time they appear in drag. Plus, Santino of PR fame is a panel judge, and RuPaul is doing her best Tyra (and out Tyra-ing her). You can watch the first episode at the Logo website. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood: Part 1 The first thing to realize when approaching Margaret Atwood is her intentions. Nothing is done by accident. Down to the color of a pair of gloves or the placement of a photo on a desk, everything is intentional. While no author can control the reaction of the public to their work, Atwood does everything within her power to steer a reader in the right direction. The Edible Woman is a dry, quirky novel concerning Marian. Marian lives in a large, unnamed Canadian city in the mid 1960s. She works in market research, literally sandwiched on the second floor between the lower level male employees and the upper level male executives. She lives her life in a responsible, dependable way. Everyone can trust Marian as Marian will never do anything unexpected or inappropriate, like get pregnant and lose her job or burn down the upstairs apartment she lives in. Everything changes when her boyfriend Peter proposes to her. She's stuck. Worst of all, she begins to humanize her food, placing herself in the role of the consumed and finding herself unable to eat. This is just the initial thrust of the main character's story. There's also Ainsley, who has decided she will trick a man into impregnating her so she can be a single mother. There's Duncan, who is a depressed, cynical grad student who might finish one sentence of a long overdue paper each day because he's afraid of not writing something new and worthwhile. There's Clara, who is about to give birth to her third child in a rather short period of time, wondering how it could have happened when she and her husband were so careful. The supporting cast is where the novel really shines. Atwood took many risks with her debut novel. There's a reason it sat in publishing limbo until she won the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry (think Pulitzer, only in Canada): it's out there. The characters are all gross exaggerations of gender stereotypes. The symbols and motifs blur between reality and fantasy. And I can't imagine how the ending could be more polarizing. It's possible to read The Edible Woman and just enjoy the language. It's clever. It's funny. It's a quick read. You could also read it slowly, attempting to dissect how she evolved every image from the first chapter of the novel until the final page. I was discussing this book recently and didn't even realize after two reads that hunting was such a strong symbol in the book; now I can't turn a page without seeing it. How else does the book work? It's a Mad Men world, and Atwood showcases what choices women had during that time period (ok, S3's time period, as the show is supposed to jump 3 years every new season). It offers glimpses into the less known market research aspect of advertising, most likely pulled from Atwood's own stint working at such a business (important note: Atwood does not write about herself; that's her claim and she's sticking to it). And it also shows just how talented Atwood is. This does not read like a debut novel. It's complex and wonderfully imaginative, and still holds up 40 years later as a great book. Thursday I will be examining different media that may have helped build up to the creation of The Edible Woman (not that they necessarily influenced Atwood, but began to push print, audible, and visual media in this direction); Saturday will be the modern connections.

Labels: advertising, edible woman, mad men, margaret atwood