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Atwood’s angle

Acclaimed author delivers 2008 Massey Lecture

By Jeff Green

Admirers of respected Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood are in for a treat.

They’ll get a chance to listen to the award-winning writer up close and personal next month when she delivers one of the 2008 CBC Massey Lecture series at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre.

Memorial University is a co-sponsor of this year’s St. John’s lecture, entitled Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, which takes place on Sunday, Oct. 12, at 8 p.m.

In an entertaining and imaginative approach to the subject, Ms. Atwood proposes that debt is like air – something people take for granted until things go wrong. And then, while gasping for breath, they become very interested in it.

Her lecture won’t focus on issues such as practical debt management or high finance. Rather, it will be an examination into the concept of debt being an ancient and central motif in religion, literature, and the structure of human societies.

“These are not lectures about how to get out of debt; rather, they’re about the debtor/creditor twinship in the broadest sense – from human sacrifice to pawnshops to revenge,” said Ms. Atwood. “In this light, what we owe and how we pay is a feature of all human societies, and profoundly shapes our shared values and our cultures.”

The roots for the CBC Massey Lectures stretch back more than 40 years to 1961. They were created in honour of Vincent Massey, the first Canadian governor general of Canada and established to help provide a forum on radio where major contemporary thinkers could address important issues.

Over the years, lecturers have included the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Claude Levi-Strauss, John Ralston Saul, Michael Ignatieff, Stephen Lewis and Margaret Somerville.

Ms. Atwood is one of this country’s most lauded authors. She is the recipient of high-profile awards such as the Booker Prize, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and the Governor General’s Literary Award, among others.

She is the bestselling author of more than 35 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin, and Oryx and Crake.

Tickets are available through the Arts and Culture Centre Box Office and are $20 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. High school students and those under the age of 17 can get their tickets for $5 each. Call 729-3900 for more information.

The 2008 CBC Massey Lectures will be recorded for broadcast on CBC Radio’s Ideas from Nov. 10-14.