Some writers are drawn, almost as if hexed, to pronounce on matters of state, politics, and, occasionally, economic policy. Margaret Atwood is one such writer. Her book Payback suffers from its aspiration to create an idealistic and implausible world to take the place of the one we have. This imaginary world would adopt all currently attractive ecological and friendly principles. In positing such a utopia, Atwood puts aside the admirable acuity she has when investigating the real world of literature and veers away into the world of politics, economics, and social life, where she reveals herself a romantic. In so doing, she takes her place, a modest one, in the ranks of twentieth-century writers (Eliot, Pound, Yeats, Brecht) who also ventured into the construction of unworkable social visions that would supplant what they saw around them. Her adventure, while less ambitious, is no less naive than theirs.

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