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 


Tonight at 192 Books, Frederic Tuten will read from his new book Self-Portrait: Fictions. Recently, Bookforum's Peter Trachtenberg caught up with Tuten to ask him about cinema, his friendship with Roy Lichtenstein, and his "painterly prose."

Donald Rumsfeld's memoir, Known and Unknown, will be released on January 25. The book has been embargoed, so we won't be able to read Rummy's rhetorical twists, revelations about the events leading up to the Iraq War, or recollections of meeting Elvis until the book is in stores. In the meantime, can someone please cook up a book trailer?

The Rumpus presents its second "Culture Death Match"—this one between Tom Bissell (who is represented here by author Salvatore Pane) and Sarah Vowell (Amy Whipple). The battle is in part between Bissell's and Vowell's obsessions—video games and history, respectively—but also about men and women writers. "Think of the guys here on The Rumpus or over at HTMLGiant," Whipple writes. "You get to say what you want to say when you want to say it and it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re right—just so long as you act like you are."

Meanwhile, Franzenfreude lives on. Katha Pollitt offers a good analysis at The Nation. And Salon wonders: Which Freedom character is Franzen?

Laura Kipnis's latest book attempts to help you become better not just at scandalizing people, but at being scandalized.