Last night, I was one of the lucky people who had scored a ticket to see George Stroumboulopoulos interview Margaret Atwood at the Toronto Reference Library. Needless to say, I was really excited just to be attending this event. But once it started, I can honestly say I was not let down.
Stroumboulopoulos’s interviewing style is one of my favourites because he draws no lines. If someone tries to dance around something, he’ll try to push a little harder to get some sort of an answer from them. Not only that, but he has a very casual rapport with the person he’s interviewing and keeps it conversational as well as informative. So the answers we got to hear from Atwood were quite entertaining.
I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood. Ever since I read The Handmaid’s Tale in university, I’ve loved her as a writer, and even now following her Twitter account makes me so happy. Most recently, you’ll have seen my review on her newest book, The Heart Goes Last, which I thought was spectacular. When asked how she came up with the idea for this novel, and how it was put together, Atwood compares the story somewhat to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and says, like Edgar Allan Poe had said,it is best to write the end of a novel first so that you can come up with ways to mislead your reader along their journey so they are surprised at the end.
Atwood mentions that for her book, On Writers and Writing, she spoke with a lot of writers, and a lot of them described the beginning of the writing process as “being in the dark”. There isn’t a lot apparent right away; you sort of have to write until you can see a little more and then maybe, maybe you’ll the “the point” in your work. But she says novels, like music or paintings, don’t necessarily have “a point”. It’s not about having one ultimate flashcard that can sum up the novel, but rather, novels are about characters, and it’s about allowing your reader to follow these characters through experiences. It’s about the experience you have with a book – they’re not all equations ready to be solved into one neat package.
The Heart Goes Last discusses such futuristic ideas such as sex bots, which Atwood backed up in saying that she “doesn’t write about things that we aren’t already working toward”. After discussing what science is doing to make these sex bots an almost-reality, Atwood mentioned some of the things she has looked up regarding what she wants to happen to her body once she dies; a lot of strange scientific talk went on at this event, but it was definitely interesting to consider!
Once the interview was over, Atwood proceeded to the back of the Appel Salon where an eager line of fans waited to get their books signed. I’d already been able to meet Atwood at the Toronto Interational Book Fair last year, so I was less nervous about doing it now, but it was still wonderful to be able to tell her how much I genuinely enjoyed this new novel.
(Me and Christine with George Stroumboulopoulos)
I also got the chance to approach George Stroumboulopoulos and speak with him about Humber College (where he went, and I go now for media communications), and how being a student is hard work. He mentioned that having a big ego in this industry doesn’t make sense, because your experiences can get you through some doors, but in order to get those experiences, you need a handful of people to give someone new a chance. And it was very apparent that he lives by this belief, as he was so down to earth. The best thing I got out of this conversation though was the fact that he told me that people will always need writers and good communicators, so it is a very good skill to have, which was really inspiring for me to hear since that’s the avenue I want to go down. Despite having just met the Queen of CanLit, this conversation was probably the highlight of my night.
Were you at this event, or have you read Atwood’s newest novel? If not, which is your favourite novel by Atwood?