Margaret Atwood introduces Graeme Gibson’s Perpetual Motion and Gentleman Death

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Margaret Atwood pens a foreword to a new publication of two of her late partner's beloved works

. It was my job to hack a pathway through the transcripts: they’d been typed up by a woman who turned out to be somewhat deaf, so I had to guess what the writers might actually have said.When we weren’t busying ourselves with such publishing tasks, we were trying to arrange a life together.

Graeme was a person not only of enthusiasms but also of moral imperatives. He decided that since we had a hundred acres of weedy farmland, it was our duty to farm it. He didn’t want to be a city person lolling about idly in the country; he wanted the immersive experience. Needless to say, neither of us had ever spent time on a farm before. At auctions he acquired a second-hand baler and a harrow to go with the old tractor that had come with the property.

The peacocks were for my birthday. They added unearthly screams to the ambience, which by now was quite Gothic. I won’t go into our attempt to raise chicks in an incubator – you have to get the temperature just right, and we didn’t, and Frankenchicks is what came out – nor the sad tale of the male peacock, who was deprived of his peahen by a blood-drinking weasel and went mad and became a mass murderer of the hens.

The Gibsonian style is difficult to describe. Hesitations in speech and thought, doublethink, expletives and spluttering, the tics and tricks of verbal communication and the failures to communicate: these are present to a greater or lesser extent in all of Graeme’s fictions. Farce and antic dispositions and human stupidity and nobility and futility and tragedy are never far apart, though tempered with a sort of loony cheerfulness.

 

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Maggie seems to be in the news a lot.Has she done ANYTHING since writing a book in 1875

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