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.
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 : )