Margaret Atwood Interview

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid’s Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood’s dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, part of the Massey Lecture series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009. Ms. Atwood’s work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM.

Margaret Atwood and I @ the book signing

Yesterday my friends and I went to attend  the annual Pelham Edgar Lecture where Margaret Atwood would be interviewed by CBC’s Carol Off at our school, the University of Toronto. Margaret Atwood is actually a graduate of our school [along with Michael Ondaatje, who wrote THE ENGLISH PATIENT!!! #$@$$%^-- something I discovered just yesterday] so it was very exciting for us to learn about the old days. The days when street-level pubs did not exist, as there was the potential of a pedestrian looking into the pub to see people drinking, which would surely corrupt them… The days when people would say: “What is Canadian literature? Isn’t it a second rate version of American or British literature?” 

 Good times, good times, I’m sure.

To be seeing and listening to Ms. Atwood, the author who contributed greatly to the shaping of Canadian lit, I imagined someone…not quite human. But she seemed pretty ordinary. And super humble about her achievements. Carol Off would, several times, praise Atwood for her great contributions not only to the literary but also to the political sphere. But Atwood would constantly disown the praise, saying that she did not deserve the red badge as an activist. She mentioned that the only reason why she would take a political stance was due to the fact that there would be hundreds of people pushing behind her. Towards the end of the interview, Carol Off urged Atwood to accept some credit, and the crowd broke into applause.

The interview wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. Atwood rarely talked about her books. As I was telling my friend Kerrie, who was unable to attend due to a cold, I could summarize the interview with two words: Martians and turnips. The chunk of the interview was focused on the reading materials Ms. Atwood said she’d recommend to Martians to read if they ever visited North America. Another chunk was focused on….well…I don’t quite recall because it was rather confusing, but something about how she would vote for a turnip to become prime minister? President? Not sure. But that was her answer to Carol Off’s political question on her thoughts of this year’s election. Atwood’s reason for wanting to vote for a turnip sounded quite intelligent though…

Though I wished she could have talked more about her books, the inspiration behind her writing, I really enjoyed the interview. Ms. Atwood is a quirky, humorous and superbly intelligent woman. It’s always a great experience to get to know a bit about the author before reading her works. And I’m ashamed to say I never read past the first few pages of her books. I always meant to. But they’re a bit difficult to get into, I find. Anyway, time to try again. I’ll be starting with ‘BLIND ASSASSIN’ which I got signed by her.

Have you guys read a book by Margaret Atwood? If you have, do share your thoughts : )

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Margaret Atwood Interview

  1. What an awesome experience! I’ve had the good fortune to meet a couple writers in real life…but none so famous as Ms. Atwood. Hmm, turnip for president…I think I might write that one in next election.

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    • I haven’t met too many writers in real life! But attending university opened up more opportunities. Ah….yah, write the turnip down for the next election. Wise choice,I’m sure.

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  2. When I was in Italy in the fall last year I needed a book. The English sections in the bookstores there are sooo small but I found a copy of Atwood’s THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD. Really weird, but fun once you get into it.

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  3. Ahhh can’t believe I missed out! I have always admired Margaret Atwood on, I’d say, an intellectual level – that her books definitely offer much food for thought. I’ve only read Oryx and Crake, as well as the Blind Assassin, and her books are so different from one another that I can’t draw much from such a small sample; but yes, she definitely experiments ALOT and plays with traditional associations and archetypes.

    The Blind Assassin was amazing; maybe I’m kind of dense and bad with plots, but the ending hit me almost like a freight train – how all the pieces came together. She has an acute sense of character too, and a way of setting heavy and almost “static”-like settings. It’s a bit hard to say, but definitely give it a try!

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    • I know!!! You’ve actually read and enjoyed her books!!! I went to the interview without having read anything of hers haha except a few chapters of some books written by her.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the Blind Assassin. It’s encouraging to know as I’m befuddled with the first chapter.

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  4. I love Atwood! So wonderful that you got to meet her :)

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  5. Ooh. That must have been a great experience! Atwood is one of my favourite (contemporary) authors! I read some of her books in class and have since read more, though I still have a lot to go. I don’t know if I have one favourite exactly.

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    • I really wish I had read at least one of her novels before attending the interview :/ I need to start reading to figure out why she’s a favourite author to so many.

      Thanks for dropping by!

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      • I definitely recommend her. :) She has written quite a few and very different books, so depending on what you like there’s a lot to choose from.

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