There is nothing as entertaining as Margaret Atwood's wit. Last night she delivered the CLC Kriesel lecture at the Winspear. These days she's kind of an old lady like me but it hasn't dulled her acerbic mind. After a forgettable introduction by someone who went on for way too long, she began by saying, "I feel well summarised."
The talk's title was "The Burgess Shale: The Canadian Writing Landscape of the 1960s." The first slide of the power point presentation was her own illustrations of Burgess creatures. Although she was talking about Canadian writing, her thoughts ranged through the 1960s CanLit scene, her unusual childhood in the 40s and personal observations of the birth of Canadian Publishing. In the 1960s Canadian writers and publishers were pioneers, inventing "stuff" as they went along. Some publishing houses, established because the founder owned a printing press, are still viable enterprises. Margaret self-published her first book of poetry and handset the print. Truly a labour of love. When she published "The Edible Woman", her first novel, she was given an author table in Eaton's men's socks and shorts department. She sold 2 books.
Margaret Atwood has become an icon (something she riffed on several times) and she knew so many of the iconic poets, novelists and publishers of the day. Yet she doesn't ever take herself too seriously and her self-deprecation is refreshing.
The 60s writing and publishing scene were very much dependent on everyone involved getting together to fund raise. One of the funniest anecdotes was her satiric contribution to a Porno Project that didn't go anywhere. Harking to Sinclair Ross' "As for Me and My House", Margaret titled her story, "As for Me and My Grain Elevator." The piece went downhill from there and part of the reason for its inclusion illustrated how commonplace pornography has become.
The best speakers are entertaining but deliver a strong message. So it was last night. It was only in reflection, I realized how much information Margaret had included. I guess I am a fan.
I've been writing on and off for years and this is where my more serious pieces will be.