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19 Mar 2016

The Brilliant Margaret Atwood

I’m re-reading Lady Oracle, one of her early novels, and have just come across this, about the jade snuff boxes and enamelled perfume bottles on sale in Portobello Road:

How difficult these objects are to dispose of, I thought; they lurk passively, like vampire sheep, waiting for someone to buy them.

Vampire sheep? Where do they come from? And is lurking passively an identifying feature? I had no idea.

Then, a few pages later, finding out about her new boyfriend’s left-wing heroes (bear in mind that the narrator used to be extremely fat):

Mao was my favorite, you could tell he liked to eat. I pictured him wolfing down huge Chinese meals, with relish and no guilt, happy children climbing all over him. He was like an inflated Jolly Green Giant except yellow, he wrote poetry, he had fun.…He encouraged jugglers and spectacles, he liked the color red and flags and parades and table tennis; he knew the people needed food and escape, not just sermons. I liked to think about him in the bath-tub, all covered with soap, like an enormous cherub.

Not, perhaps, an in-depth study of the motives behind the Cultural Revolution, but a fabulous piece of writing.

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