Margaret Atwood is one of the few authors, Canadian authors, where I've read almost every single thing she's ever written. It's not even a love-hate relationship: I count a few of her books among my absolute favourites (Surfacing), and when I saw her at the IFOA a couple of years ago, it was one of the most entertaining readings I had ever been too. So, I bought Payback, years ago, I think, and it sat on the shelves. Atwood's Massey lecture looks at the philosophical and literary implications of debt -- what it means from a balanced perspective. This isn't a book about the recession or about the failure of our monetary system but it's about what it means to be in debt from a moral perspective.
I was honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading Payback. I actually learned a great deal about the idea of balance. Atwood takes a very thorough look at what defined debt throughout the ages -- starting with early philosophical positions (there's lots of talk of mythology) and ending with a modern-day take on Dickens' character Scrooge (with all of the implications of how we are living today), Atwood's point is simple: we can't keep taking so much without giving something back... and if we don't give it back, the universe will just take it.
Anyway, I don't have much more to say about it -- this is probably my shortest review ever. Balance is good. Taking advantage of our resources isn't. Money is so much more than dollars and cents, and there's a surprising amount of debt in literature. If I ever go back to grad school, what a fascinating thesis that would make.
READING CHALLENGES: Off the Shelf, naturally.