Madeleine Davies attended a Guardian ‘Live’ event last Tuesday night where Margaret Atwood was discussing her new novel, ‘The Heart Goes Last’. Held at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster, the venue was spectacular and the evening was a fascinating blend between critical analysis, environmentalism, feminism, and cultural commentary. Atwood was in lively form, warning one questioner never to believe women to be as gentle as they may seem: ‘like Canadians, women are rarely as nice as they’ve learned to look’. The emphasis of the debate was on the writing of speculative fiction, but Atwood’s major fictions (from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, through ‘Alias Grace’, and towards ‘Oryx and Crake’) were all discussed.
Atwood can present as a fairly daunting personality, but her wit and humanity were clear in her response to questions from the audience. She described how she always writes 4 pages a day whether she is on tour or not, though she admitted that she often cheats by using a larger font size ‘because it’s more encouraging’. Her comments took in the Pope, Obama, zombies, vampires, and bio-engineering as well as ‘Bladerunner’, Darwin, Henry James, post-humanism, and trolls. The event was attended by 500 people and Atwood received a long, warm ovation. She is always an interesting speaker but her astonishing intellect, her concern for the environment and her mordant humour made the debate a genuinely memorable event.
Madeleine Davies is Part 1 Director in the Department of English Literature. She has published widely in the fields of contemporary theatre, formative television drama, and Canadian Women’s writing. She is currently working on a new monograph titled, Margaret Atwood’s Writing Women.
Contact Madeleine: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit her webpages: http://www.reading.ac.uk/english-literature/aboutus/Staff/m-k-davies.aspx