Introducing Margaret Atwood

by Stewart Goodings

Let’s go back to 1966 for a moment. The Governor General’s Medal for poetry goes to a young 27 year old from Toronto, Margaret Atwood. The Circle Game is her first book, and is a harbinger of what becomes a veritable flood of over 60 books, with her book of short stories Old Babes in the Wood the most recent. For a young woman not yet 30 to win the country’s top literary prize was unprecedented.

For six decades, Margaret Atwood has been at the centre of Canada’s literary scene, not only as a consummate and imaginative writer but as an advocate, spiritual leader, and articulate spokesperson for books and the arts in Canada. She’s won two Booker Prizes, and one Giller, as well as a score of international awards. So far, she’s received 26 honorary degrees from universities around the world.

She is now an international literary star, with her book The Handmaid’s Tale turned into a much watched TV series viewed globally. And her talks about books draw massive crowds whether in Canada or other countries. But she eschews the ‘icon’ lifestyle. She lives in the same house in Toronto she’s lived in for many years. She still goes birding with friends at Point Pelee. She still pulls up weeds on her property in the country. And she is ready to come to a small Gulf Island and spread her passionate words about books.

In politics, it’s called “name recognition”. Whether you’ve read one or two, or every one of her books, you’ve undoubtedly heard of her! For those who have read her, you’ll know her books brim with vitality, sparkling dialogue, historical relevance, and intriguing characters. I just re-read three of them, and was awed by her prose and creativity. Before she arrives on Denman in late May, I heartily recommend either re-reading one or two of your favourites, or starting afresh with one or two of her classics, such as Alias Grace or The Handmaid’s Tale.

And please make sure to watch the Knowledge Network’s magnificent documentary about Atwood called “A Word after a Word after a Word is Power.” This is a brilliant portrayal of her life and art.

While she may not have ‘invented’ Canadian literature, she has promoted and inspired Canadian writing–so many Canadian writers have benefited from her encouragement and patronage. And to the world, her name has become synonymous with high quality in writing.

And Denman Island will soon have the great pleasure of meeting this remarkable writer and Canadian legend.

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