Thursday, December 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, Margaret Atwood!

Last night my husband and I got to attend a great event at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan- a literary tribute to the great Margaret Atwood, on the occasion of her 75th birthday. Her birthday was November 18 and she admitted she'd been to several parties and tributes, "less than 10 but more than 6," and that this was the last. Well, it was a fitting way to end the official celebrations.

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.
Next up was prolific author and blogger Chuck Wendig, who talked about how awesome it is to be retweeted by Margaret Atwood and gave us a list of things we might not know about her, such as
  • 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.
Then Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians series, appeared and read a passage from The Handmaid's Tale which described the fall into dictatorship in that world. He went on to discuss her prescience and foresight when this novel came out in 1986.

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!


bermudaonion said...

Oh man, I bet that was so much fun, especially for you! I'm glad you got to go.

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

What an awesome event! Atwood is one of my most favorite authors too.I would have loved to have been there. She's probably not going to come to Kansas City anytime soon. :-)