Valerie Martin and Margaret Atwood, photo by Nancy Crampton.
Canadian author Margaret Atwood read from her latest novel, The Year of the Flood, at Monday’s opening night of the 92Y Reading Series, an evening one-on-one discussion series entering its 72nd season.
During the introduction, longtime friend and colleague Valerie Martin said Atwood was so prolific that she’s not sure who writes all of Atwood’s books. (“It might be a Sasquatch double,” deadpanned Martin, a wink at Atwood’s Canadian heritage). When Atwood is not writing, Martin said, the 70-year-old Ontario native is tweeting, blogging, or “on a carbon-neutral, around-the world tour” promoting not only her book, but environmental conservation and Bird Life International. “She’s maybe finishing a new novel backstage,” Martin quipped.
Arriving onstage to applause from the full house, Atwood told the story of a book tour a few years earlier. She was afraid she’d have no audience for the event due to a “terrible promoter,” but was able to fill the seats thanks to her following on Twitter. When asked how it felt to embrace technology, Atwood responded: “I haven’t embraced technology. I was more embraced by it.”
Following a reading of selections from Flood, the second novel in Atwood’s dystopian MaddAddam trilogy, the conversation between the old friends was entertaining and often comical—although many of the topics discussed were unsettling (e.g. eating maggots and antibiotics made from cockroach brains to survive the coming apocalypse). The MaddAddam trilogy’s theme of an “almost annihilation of the human race” was the starting point for the night’s most compelling and revelatory dialogue. Many of the speculative ideas raised in Atwood’s trilogy are, if not contemporary, then on the brink of happening. When asked by readers how she foresees these ideas playing out during the next twenty years, Atwood’s response was frank: “I don’t know. I won’t be around in 20 years, that’s your problem.” —Tynan Kogane
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