Burning Questions is a collection of essays, speeches, book reviews, book forewords, and other non-fiction miscellany from the pen and wit of the incredible Margaret Atwood. Collected works starting from 2004 and on up through 2021, the range of material here is so vast it practically defies description.
It is most fascinating to see the different ways in which Atwood talks to people. In all cases, she appears to reaching out directly and speaking to a specific audience. But the way in which she speaks to them varies – not so much by year (the way the book is organized) but by audience. To the audience reading an intro or a review, she speaks very differently than the way she does to an audience which she is addressing live. This makes sense, of course. But even in her live addresses, she approaches differently depending to whom she is speaking. Again, this makes sense but it’s something that is really only noticeable because of the volume of work collected here.
Nearly all the pieces were good, bordering on great. It shouldn’t be a surprise to me that someone whose fiction I have been reading for some 40, years (yes, I was reading Atwood before The Handmaid’s Tale was first published and when it was published, I bought and read it within the first week [the title of one of my short plays, produced in Upstate New York, came from a line in The Handmaid’s Tale])- and reading because I like them so much – that I would also like what the author has to say through her non-fiction. And I do. We’re very much on the same page, ideologically and politically.
When so many pieces are so good, it’s often difficult to choose a favorite, but I identified only one of the works here with a note in my Kindle, remarking simply: “Fantastic” That piece is “Polonia” (from 2005) and is a response to the question “What advice would you give the young?” Here Atwood’s talents are in full force. Her wit, her wisdom, her way with words. She’ll make you chuckle while you think, “Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly right.”
This is not really the kind of book you want to sit down and read straight through, cover to cover (though you could). This is the kind of book you keep next to you, on a coffee table, or end table, or night stand, or in the bathroom magazine rack, and you read a piece here or there when you have a couple of spare minutes. You will feel better, enriched. And keep a highlighter next to you because you’re going to want to take note of all the nuggets of wisdom that come from these pages.
And whether you’ve only just discovered Atwood or you’ve been reading her works for years, this is a great collection to have.
Looking for a good book? Burning Questions is a collection of short, non-fiction pieces (essays, speeches, reviews, etc) by Margaret Atwood. It is full of wit, wisdom, and insight and worthy of being in your home.
I received a digital copy of this book, from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces, 2004 to 2021
author: Margaret Atwood
publisher: Doubleday Books
hardcover, 496 pages