The evening started with Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus, reminiscing about reading her favorite Atwood novel as a Smith College student. That was Alias Grace (also my favorite) and she talked about how the book helped teach her about rhythm and cadence after an in-class exercise in which her professor had students go around the room reading one sentence each from the first page. She then gave her gift, 75 hypothetical cakes (which were written down on cards and delivered to Atwood in a box). The imaginary cakes were whimsical, weird and fun. Among them were
- a deck of cake cards,
- a collection of gilded cake deities,
- a cake with words that you find as you slice it, eventually telling a story, and in a nod to Atwood's invention, the Long Pen,
- a cake that can be sliced remotely from anywhere in the world.
- she's a "social media badass" and a zombie afficionado,
- she accurately predicted our current cultural apocalypse,
- she helped create her own beer,
- she was personally insulted by Doug Ford, brother of Rob,
- she supports imaginary libraries of the future, and
- she plays World of Warcraft.
But that was just the pre-show. Advertising for the event stated that there would be a "special guest," and the audience let out a collective gasp when Neil Gaiman crossed the stage to interview Atwood. The two had a wide-ranging and funny conversation about such topics as how big Canada is, witches, the thought police in America, the Long Pen, lurid covers on classic novels from the 50s and 60s, The Chronicles of Newgate, and Atwood's own "origin stories" as a writer. It turns out there are two. In the first, her now-deceased aunts say that she announced her intentions to be a writer at the age of 6. In the second, she says she knew she would be a writer at age 16.
It was a really great night. There was a signing after but I didn't bring anything to be signed, and we weren't allowed to take photos in the auditorium, so I hope this summary can give you a taste of what it was like.
Atwood is probably my favorite living author at this point and it was a treat to be in the audience for such a special event. Sometimes living in New York isn't so bad when I get to attend something like this!