Church of Our Saviour

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COS Reads: Payback, by Margaret Atwood

“Debt – who owes what to whom, or to what, and how that debt gets paid – is a subject much larger than money.”  So says Margaret Atwood, author of Payback: Debt as Metaphor and the Shadow Side of Wealth. The book is based on the prestigious Massey Lectures, given annually in Canada, and delivered by Atwood last fall.  She examines “debt as a human construct … that peculiar nexus where money, narrative or story, and religious belief intersect, often with explosive force.”

For Atwood, “the whole theology of Christianity rests on the notion of spiritual debts and what must be done to repay them.”  This is not a dry-as-dust argument but a kind of conversation with a brilliant writer who is usually in the business of creating narratives to condense and carry meaning.  Here she does the reverse and unpacks the meaning of some of our most familiar and revered narratives, from biblical stories, to fairy tales, to 19th Century novels, to the fall TV lineup.  A timely, thought-provoking, conversation-starting read.

Hear Margaret Atwood discuss Payback on NPR’s “On Point” .  You can listen to the book/Massey Lectures as a stream for free on CBC or download for a fee at iTunes.


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