Kendra Leonard: “Survival through Song”

We at The Avid Listener are delighted to bring you yet another essay by Kendra Leonard! This week, Kendra shares with us the intriguing role of music in Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy. I’m in the midst of reading this trilogy right now because Kendra’s essay got me so excited about these books! (And Kendra very thoughtfully sent the books to me as a post-surgery recovery gift.) If you haven’t read these books yet, go read them now, and then come back to this Avid Listener essay. (;

As is common in Atwood’s books, the setting of this trilogy is a dystopian future. Everything is broken. The world in these novels seems so impossible, and yet possibly right around the corner from our present reality. Music becomes crucial to patterns of memory and knowledge-keeping. I can’t say much more without turing this post into one long spoiler (and I’ll warn you that Kendra’s essay does include spoilers, but these haven’t diminished my joy in reading the books one bit!). So instead, here’s a teaser: “If you lived in the future world of Canadian writer Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy, you might learn about the properties of plants through song rather than in a biology class: ‘The Dandelion shoots, for spring, / Before their flowers burst; / The Burdock root is best in June / When it is fat with juice.’ Throughout Atwood’s trilogy, song plays an important role in transmitting knowledge in a place and time where the communications structures we take most for granted—the Internet, phones, and even books—are gone or hard to come by.”

Read the entire essay here, and please share with your literature loving friends. Stay tuned next week for an essay by Amy Sequenzia about Synesthesia, Epilepsy, and live concerts.

The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.

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