I just finished Margaret Atwood’s latest book, Payback – Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. She was recently here at UBC to deliver part two of her Massey Lectures. I went to see her at the Chan and really enjoyed the humor in her reading. Especially since her subject of “Debt and Sin” and the connections between debt and religion is a subject that really reads well with a bit of humor. Since then, I’ve been listening to podcasts (which you can download on iTunes for free) of the rest of her lectures. Here’s the link.
Legendary novelist, poet, and essayist Margaret Atwood delivers a surprising look at the topic of debt. In her wide-ranging, entertaining, and imaginative approach to the subject, Atwood proposes that debt is like air – something we take for granted until things go wrong. And then, while gasping for breath, we become very interested in it.
I very much recommend the last lecture – or part 5 – Payback, the last chapter in her book. In it, she retells the story of Scrooge. But instead of being visited by the spirits of Christmas Present, Past, and Future, Atwood’s Scrooge is visited by the Spirits of Earth Day Present, Past, and Future. Atwood culminates her book with a fictional exposition that highlights how we need to rethink the question, “What is Debt?” She argues that the most important debt is our debt to the Earth. It’s a sentiment that we folks here at Terry* can relate to and I really liked the creative way that Atwood puts it forward. She ends by suggesting that we need to re-evaluate the way we think about our own debts. If we start thinking about everything we owe in the context of real environmental costs, “Are we ever going to be able to pay it all back?” Atwood’s answer, “Maybe.”