Literary Readings: Margaret Atwood (9/20/2010)
Have you ever overheard such a riveting, witty conversation that you simply had to eavesdrop? Listening to Margaret Atwood and Valerie Martin quibble over every possible tangent to Atwood’s latest paperback The Year of the Flood felt much like playing the part of an enchanted voyeur. The incredible chemistry of these two old friends was stunning unto itself; the subject matter was a combination of defining dystopia and rabbit starvation, elucidating the mythology of bees, and examining city lights and migratory bird patterns. Even still, they were hilarious.
As Martin introduced her friend of thirty years, she joked that the impossibility of Atwood having been so prolific with her writing and appearances could only mean that she must have a secret “Saskatchewan double” typing away for her in the tundra. Later on during the Q&A, as one writer tried to outdo the other, there were many gems.
The story of The Year of the Flood is meant to examine the path of those with lesser means in a dystopian world of privilege set in the future. Centered on a utopia thrust into a dying world, three narrators tell the story of the God’s Gardeners, a fictional cult that operates in slums and praises Mother Earth on rooftop gardens. This is a future where Al Gore is canonized and characters wait out the annihilation of the planet in spas while persisting on avocado masks. A waterless flood, in the form of a man-made virus, has essentially eliminated humanity.
Atwood reading from the podium felt much more like a traditional reading, with a bits of scene setting and three excerpted selections (one for each narrator in the novel). That is, until Margaret Atwood sang a hymn called "We Praise The Tiny Perfect Moles" for Mole day, a children’s festival of the God’s Gardeners. As Atwood has become a sort of a modern day patron saint of the dystopia genre, perhaps all this is her way of giving back.
I went into this event an enormous fan of Atwood, and left even more in love. If you have yet to read Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, stop reading this drivel I have penned and go find that book. It will change your life.