Payback, Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, Margaret Atwood, House of Anansi Press, 2008, 204 pp
Margaret Atwood's latest collection of essays is highly accessible and entertaining, though it rests on her usual level of scholarship. Here she tackles questions about the balance of give and take in living, the correlation throughout man's history between debt and sin, the way debts of all types are intrinsic to plot in literature. If you have ever been (or currently are) up to your ears in debt, this book will hold your interest and even to a degree, ease your mind.
Not to say that anyone gets off easy; not the individual credit card abuser, not the guy who fails to pay his child support, not the government, banks or big business. At first it was amazing to me that Atwood researched and wrote AND published this book before the crash of 2008. It is possible that Margaret Atwood is a witch or shamaness, but more likely that she has such a sensitivity to and grip on global conditions, that she intuitively found herself investigating world financial conditions before most of us knew we were headed for trouble.
Lest you worry that this is another polemic on economics, it is altogether something else. After addressing the above mentioned topics, she moves into a parallel of Charles Dickens' 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol, starring Ebenezer Scrooge. As the archetype for rapacious capitalists who build their wealth on the backs of oppressed workers, he is also the recipient of the ultimate payback. Furthermore, he repents in a 12 step program manner and actually undergoes a change of heart. Perfect.
By the end of the final and fifth essay, entitled "Payback," a delightful trick has been played on the reader. I will not reveal the bait and switch that Atwood works on us because it is too delicious to spoil. I'll just say, it is not so much that she does not assign blame for the state of our modern world: she does! But for those of us who would rather be part of the solution, she dispenses hope and tasks in true witch fashion.
I highly recommend Payback. You will never look at life in quite the same way again.
(This book is available in paperback by special order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)