negotiating with the living / by mrm

If I hadn't been so sick, I might have thought of a question to ask Margaret Atwood when I saw her Tuesday evening at the Herbst (she was appearing as part of the City Arts & Lectures series).  As it was, I put on a nice dress and drug myself to the theatre.  She is sixty-nine years old.  Who knows when I'll get a chance to see her again.

Besides, she sang.

Apparently she wrote some hymns for her new book, The Year of the Flood.  Pre-publication, the book was lying around the home of her L.A. agent, whose partner, Orville Stoeber, a professional musician and composer, picked it up and started writing music for the lyrics.  Now it's been performed all over the England and Canada, and the U.S. is next.  Atwood claimed that this was the only tour stop she was going to sing at.

Some highlights from the evening which I hastily scribbled down:
 "Teachers sometimes pose the unfortunate question 'What was poet trying to say?' as if he had some kind of terrible speech impediment...he really wanted to say 'I love you so much' or 'War is terrible' or 'Death is scary and I don't want to do it' but instead he stuffed it into 14 lines of ABAB..."
after a long discussion of why she thinks it's important for characters to have different, distinct voices, referencing Faulkner and Blake
"I also like to have characters with different colors of hair."
In response to the question, "Was your most recent book written for a specific audience, and if so, who?"
"...Readers are readers.  They have a republic of their own.  So I write for readers.  I think they're very good people to write for."

She was wryly hilarious throughout.  As I walked into the lobby, she was ushered right past me.  She is very short.  I didn't join the long line of people waiting to get their books autographed; I remembered an article I read years ago in the New Yorker in which she complained about how tiring it was to autograph books.  Supposedly she invented a gadget which would enable her to autograph books long distance.  It was not in evidence.