In Debt to Atwood

From a review of Margaret Atwood’s book “Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, at BLOG THIS:

The economy is on a lot of people’s minds as Canadian newspapers warn of recession and the United States deals with its subprime mortgage problem. And so this might be the perfect time to read Margaret Atwood’s new book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. Consisting of five essays, each presented during this year’s Massey Lectures, Atwood provides a discursive overview of the history of debt, lending and borrowing, fairness, and its related concepts.


In the end Atwood resolves the mystery of debt, saying everything must in the end come from Nature. Everything, Atwood says, is either taken or traded. The goods to be traded must first be taken from somewhere; and the goods taken can only come from Nature. Atwood describes a scenario starring a revamped version of Scrooge, named “Scrooge Nouveau”, and set in a world of rapidly depleting resources. It is a world in which its most intelligent inhabitants (that’s us, by the way) have consumed goods beyond their needs at costs exceeding their means. We have, that is, purchased large parts of our globe on credit with high interest rates that we must one day face. Atwood’s implied imperative throughout the text: we’d be better off if we recognized this now and worked to strike a genuine balance between our only creditor, Nature, and its debtor, us.

Read the whole thing here

And from Salon‘s review:

Oh, sure, anyone can come up with a good aphorism or two, but I can’t think of anyone who has explained the subprime mortgage crisis quite as cogently as Atwood: “Some large financial institutions peddled mortgages to people who could not possibly make the monthly rates and then put this snake-oil debt into cardboard boxes with impressive labels on them and sold them to institutions and hedge funds that thought they were worth something.”

The whole thing is here

2 thoughts on “In Debt to Atwood

  1. I *just* got this in the mail, and I think it might be the book I’ll read in the hushed quiet of December 26.

    I loved the previous post, too. Atwood is one of my personal heroes. “Variations on the Word ‘Sleep'” is one of the poems I love best. I grew up in North Dakota, not Manitoba, but Atwood makes me wish I were a Canadian. (Is there a term for this – “Canada Envy,” maybe?)

    Thanks for bringing some beauty into an otherwise bleak week marked by snow days and sick kids.

  2. It’s great to see you here sungold. I can’t even say how I feel about Atwood. She made me a feminist and wrote about my own city in “The Edible Woman” – I laughed my ass off and couldn’t eat by the time I finished it, while recovering from mononucleosis between my first and second year of university. In part, it was just amazing to have finished high school without having read one piece of Canadian literature, besides Steven Leacock, and then to see my city reflected back to me. And the life of a woman too! What a difference it makes and made.

    Funny, I too am saving the “Debt” book for the Christmas holidays.

    I’m so happy that these posts gave you some pleasure in the snow, with the sick little ones. And by the way, North Dakota is close enough!

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