Margaret Atwood on Debt

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At the heart of the current economic crisis is the story of debt — of debts gone bad, of debts not repaid, and debts that should never have been agreed to in the first place. We spend more than we have, and if we don’t pay it back, the system fails.

It’s always been so — according to novelist and essayist Margaret Atwood, whose new book presents debt as one of humankind’s most powerful metaphors.

“Debt is like air,” she writes, “something we take for granted until things go wrong.” And then what?

This hour, On Point: "Payback" — Margaret Atwood’s timely consideration of "debt and the shadow side of wealth."

You can join the conversation. What does debt mean to you? Is it a natural part of our condition? When did it become okay to be in debt…and what happens when we can’t pay it back?Guest:

Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood has published more than forty books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including "The Handmaid’s Tale," "Alias Grace," and "The Blind Assassin." Her newest book, from her upcoming CBC Massey Lecture series, is "Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth."

Read an excerpt from "Payback" at the Times Online.

This program aired on October 30, 2008.


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