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February 07, 1997 - Image 5

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-02-07

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Get out those beads and start partying! Celebrate Mardi Gras early
this year with an evening of great food and music. With a traditional
New Orleans dinner and a night of music by Tom Saunders and the
Detroit Jazz All-Stars, tonight's celebration is sure to be a blast. The
fun starts at 7:30 at the Waterman Center at Schoolcraft College.
The cost is $30. For more information, call 462-4417.

Friday
February 7, 1997

5

Atwood discusses latest novel in A2

By Elizabeth Lucas
Daily Books Editor
Tonight, one of the most celebrated
authors in Canadian literature will dis-
cuss one of the most notorious figures
in Canadian history.
"Alias Grace," the latest novel by
Toronto poet and
novelist Margaret
vood, explores a P I
sensational 1843 Marl
Amurder trial. Grace
Marks, a 16-year-
old servant, was
convicted of mur-
dering her employer and his housekeep-
er/mistress, with the help of another
servant who was supposedly her lover.
"It's an interesting story in and of
jlf," said Atwood, in an interview
h The Michigan Daily. "It was well-
known in 19th-century Canada, and it
has all the stuff that would sell papers
today."
Atwood's novel, however, is not a
lurid, O.J.Simpson-esque account of the
trial. Rather, it attempts to fill in two
sides of the story. Readers see Grace
partly through the eyes of Simon
Jordan, an American physician studying
the mentally ill.
-Iowever, about half the book is nar-

U,
L

rated by Grace as she gives her version
of events - a device which underscores
the ambiguity of Atwood's topic. Grace
seems to be a forthright, credible
observer, but how far can she be trust-
ed? Readers are left to find their own
answers to this and the novel's many
e ® _ other questions.
"The book start-
EVIE W~ ed out in the third
aret Atwood person, but it did-
Tonight at 7:00 n't work," Atwood
Michigan Theater said. "The reason it
Free wouldn't have
worked is that in
the third person, the author knows. In
the first person, we only know what
Grace tells us."
Grace's narrative voice - direct,
sharply observant and at times dryly
humorous - is a definite strength of
the book, though it was surely a chal-
lenge to write. Atwood said the biggest
difficulty she faced, however, was
research. The book not only presents
conflicting accounts of Grace's history,
it draws on numerous details of
Victorian life and society.
"Finding stuff out was very difficult,"
Atwood said. "(Another difficulty) was
when you found stuff out and it contra-
dicted what you'd already found out....

I kept uncovering different bits of his-
torical record, and each time, it would
change things somewhat."
With its rich historical background
and page-turning intrigue, "Alias
Grace" is a fascinating book on many
levels. One of these is its status as a
work of Canadian literature, something
that Atwood said is quite different from
American or British literature.
"It's a different stance, a different
outlook on the world," Atwood said of
Canadian writing. "It was mostly the
Scots who went to Canada, and they
generally had a more ironic outlook.
Also, Britain was an imperial power, the
States were an imperial power, but
Canada never was."'
Renowned Canadian authors like
Carol Shields, Michael Ondaatje and
Robertson Davies - as well as Atwood
herself - have emerged to display this
different perspective. Yet when examin-
ing the history of Canadian literature,
more interesting than authors' world
views is the fact that they are read and
published at all. Canadian literature, as
readers now know it, is a development
that ocurred during the last 30 years.
Becoming well-known "wasn't a pos-
sibility," said Atwood of her earliest
years as a writer. "Along came the

Depression, along came the war -
there were 20 years (without) the
Canadian publishing industry."
Atwood said, however, that
Canadian literature has become much
more popular in recent years. "There's
an international audience, not just in
Canada ... and there are a lot of new
writers."
Atwood can be counted as one of
Canadian literature's pre-eminent fig-
ures. She began to write as a teen-ager,
and eventually started to publish poetry
and fiction. "The poetry got published
first, because it was easier to publish
poetry in Canada. My first novel didn't
get published, but my second one did,
when I was 24."
Since then, Atwood has published
eight other novels, 12 books of poetry
and several works of nonfiction. She
has also worked on screenplays, which
she described as being like "summer
camp for grownups. It involves a group
of people, and if you get on with them,
you can have singsongs and weenie
roasts. Or, if you don't get on with
them, it can be hell."
With this lengthy and prolific career,
Atwood could surely serve as a model
for numerous aspiring writers. She
offered them simple advice: "Write,

Margaret Atwood reads tonight at The Michigan Theater.

write, write. Read, read, read."
And as for her curious readers,
Atwood declined to disclose what her
next book would be, saying it would
be bad luck. Fans will have to make

themselves content with tonight's
reading from "Alias Grace," and
they'll also have to hope that Atwood's
next work is as intriguing and memo-
rable.

Kids crowd surf to Pearl Jam in Seattle during the height of grunge, in 1992.
Seattle grunge scene chronicled in new d

The Washington Post
When Doug Pray was filming "Hype!," one major problem was the very subject
of his documentary on the Seattle rock explosion that came to be known as
"grunge." Ignited by the sudden commercial success of Nirvana and Pearl Jam and
mercilessly hyped by both the rock and mainstream media (hence the title), grunge
was close to a dirty word when Pray began filming in 1993.
"By then people were so tired of the word and the whole concept of the Seattle
Sne that nobody would talk about it," Pray recalled. "So we
n't even talk about Nirvana or Pearl Jam. We just asked peo-
ple about their experience as a band:'
And ultimately that's what makes "Hype!" interesting. True,
Nirvana and Pearl Jam are present and accounted for: Nirvana
appears in rare home video footage of the first performance of
what would be its breakthrough single, "Smells Like TeenV
Spirit." Pearl Jam shows up in a video performing "Not for You"
during its annual free radio broadcast. But the two bands are not the focus of the film.
In fact, Pray manages to capture more than three dozen Seattle bands as well as
assorted label heads, publicists, managers and camp followers. Among them is pho-
rapher Charles Peterson, whose black-and-white photos chronicling the Seattle
! ne were collected last year in "Screaming Life."
As Peterson's book and Pray's film show, the Seattle rock scene was making its
own history long before the mainstream media caught on. Some bands like the
Fastbacks date back to the late '70s. "People started bands because there were no
bands touring there, and people started fanzines because nobody was covering them,"
Pray said. "It wasn't anything unique to Seattle; it was really happening all across the
country. What was unique about Seattle was that it was a little more isolated, a little
less traveled, and there really was this viable music scene throughout the '80s."
Jack Endino, the "Godfather of Grunge" as a member of Skin Yard and early pro-
ducer for Green River, Mudhoney, Nirvana and Soundgarden, notes in the film that
"obody was worried about success because we lived in Seattle!" None of the

1

major labels had people in the Northwest, so the region was basically isolated from
the industry. On the other hand, the close-knit musical community was very much
a part of what came to be known as the International Pop Underground, the do-it-
yourself scene that encouraged independent alternative labels, clubs, distribution
companies, fanzines and the like. (For a good read on Seattle music from 1959 to
now, check out Clark Humphrey's "Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story.")
The first wave broke in the mid-'80s with Sub Pop, the label that identified,
packaged and exploited Seattle's rock scene much as its model,
Motown, did with Detroit's soul scene. It was Sub Pop that in
R E V I E W 1989 paid for a reporter from Britain's Melody Maker to come
Hype! over and report on the Seattle scene. And that's when the first
Tonight through Tuesday hype began, though it was first limited to England and alter-
Michigan Theater native circles.
$5 students, $6.50 others According to Pray, "Everybody thought Mudhoney was the
band - they were big in England - and people were laugh-
ing that Seattle was going to be the next Athens or Minneapolis." Mudhoney's 1988
single, "Touch Me, I'm Sick," was the benchmark of the time, but as several peo-
ple note in "Hype!," by 1991 the scene was on its last legs when Nirvana's first
major-label album, "Nevermind," gave it new life, followed soon after by Pearl Jam
and Soundgarden.
Things soon started spinning out of control. Local bands that had moved to Los
Angeles and New York looking for deals sneaked back to Seattle as major labels
swooped in looking for the next Nirvana. Suddenly, the sleepy port city was dubbed

Locumentary 'Hype!'
the rock capital of the world and Seattle's slew of bands were off to the races.
As one single noted, "Nirvana Changes Everything."
"You fight back any way you can," Pray says of reaction to the media hype. There
was still a level of suspicion when Pray showed up in January 1993. A graduate of
UCLA's School of Film and Television, he had some handy local connections, hav-
ing done videos for such Seattle bands as the Young Fresh Fellows and Flop.
The performances were well recorded in a three-camera, Super 16mm shoot and
with 24-track digital sound (though not paid, the bands later were given the 24-
track recordings). "There's a long tradition of punk rock films shot in a punk rock
style of filmmaking," Pray explained. "It was very intentional not to have style,' in
a way. But there's a lot of style in the editing - that's where we wrote the film, con-
densing and compressing what we had shot."
Pray realized "Hype!'"s narrative structure was like a play: "First act - inno-
cence, beer, fun, rock, garages, boom. Second act - Sub Pop. Third act -some
bands go through the roof, the world comes to Seattle and whatever followed fol-
lowed."

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