Friday, 13 May 2011

so, margaret atwood

and her reading today in aberdeen was kind of an early birthday present for me. atwood hasn't been an interest myself and t have shared (true, i may have read a poem or two but it's also true she may have been sleeping) but there was no way i was going on my own so it was an early rise for both of us and off up the road. t is always an excellent foil for any brittleness i might show (amy prettiness aberdeen may have has always avoided me) and coupled with the only time i've actually seen the sun shine in aberdeen, soon got me into the vibe of the university.

the atwood gig was packed. i don't think i've ever been to a reading where there were so many people, probably a lot to do with me working weekends, but all the same.. we'd been at the bookselling place and i kind of had an inkling of what was coming when i saw there was no poetry on sale which, inevitably lead to the usual banter about not reading atwood's novels. so, novels it was, with a bit from oryx and crake, alias grace and the year of the flood.

all of which was fine and good but there was still the business of seeing someone in the flesh who i've spent more than a bit of time with in print. we were both taken by the fact she arrived on stage with her bag and then another shopping bag with her books in it. she was just as she looks in the pictures, maybe a wee bit smaller but very spry. her voice sounded not appreciably different than it does in the recordings, she definitely had a presence and i had a sense that when she wanted to be she could be more than a tad spiky and proper full on. but what was surprising was how funny she was. quite why i hadn't expected that i don't know but she was and that was that. she also showed a hitherto unsuspected appreciation of the conan books, then a tale about superhero bunnies and finished it all off with a song. i looked at t and saw the same expression she had when she had seen kenneth white for the first time. winner. wouldn't it be great she said, if margaret atwood was your auntie. it would i agreed, be fine.

off to the signing where we drank coffee and waited for the end of the line which took a good hour. me, all i wanted was for her to sign my copy of entering fire. we didn't talk beyond a brief expression of surprise a poetry book had showed its face. kind of like the seamus heaney experience i was more interested than listening than asking. not so for t who was loving the notion of humans who can purr form oryx and crake and immediately fell into conversation with her about some weird bunny/cat purring hybrid and then got a cartoon drawn for her on her book. i thought margaret atwood was looking a bit weary by the time we got to her and i was impressed by that level of engagement and genuine laughter.

after that (and really what we should've done was ask her along) we sloped off to fowlsheugh to look at kittiwakes by the thousand - i'd post a picture but really it's just more cliffs with birds. but a brilliant place all the same and a truly excellent hide just being completed. had we had more time i'd have read some atwood right in there at the top of the cliff. maybe next time.

i'm fortunate these days in knowing more than one person in his/her seventies who's willing to talk about all manner of things with me. maybe i should ask more questions but in the main i'm happy enough to listen. i should've noted that atwood was off around the islands soon and maybe thought of something she should see (like my book!! lol) but i guess she'll have loads of people to do that. or i could've said that if she really wanted to see an osprey while she was here i could sort that right out. but really none of that. what i would say now is something about t's cartoon cat.

so have a good trip margaret atwood. it was good to finally see you. purrs and thank you for the cat.


kate said...

happy early birthday!! i'm so glad that ms atwood didn't disappoint and a bonus cat drawing too - well done t :)

...just catching up on your holiday. the roads sound idyllic with the perfect number of tea stops. talking of cycling, do you read privateer? there's photographic evidence of me being very rude ;)

swiss said...

i did get the first issue of privateer but really i'm a rouleur boy. i may have to get this month's issue tho as it appears there's a few familiar faces in it!

Claire A said...

I saw her read at the art college in Edinburgh a couple of years ago and she was just brilliant. I looked at the Aberdeen gig and wished I could make it -- glad to hear it was good! :)

Titus said...

Oh, that was great! Seeing a writer that meets expectations and surprises. Particularly noted the Conan bit: my new heroine.

swiss said...

if i ahdn't been working we would've gone to bothe her gigs. and kenneth white, and, and..! i was pretty impressed by the festival. still not a fan of aberdeen tho!

the conan thing was just one of the many hints she gave us about other interests. it was good to hear the bits of the novels but the stories behind them,es p the research process for alias grace, were more interesting. am looking forward to her book on sf coming out this autumn

Roxana said...

i so envy you for this chance!!! (even if she is the one who says: “Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pate” haha, i have always adired this)

Roxana said...

and i so laughed about this sentence:

t is always an excellent foil for any brittleness i might show

brilliant! :-)

swiss said...

i'm not so sure about that quote. that'd be like saying you'd met people from a certain place and had no interest in seeing the location that produced them. that said going to see someone read isn't meeting them, esp if reading rather than performing is what they're doing (obviously this'll be more difficult for prose/non-ficiton people) but even aside from that there's the interest of going to see what they have to say. to be honest this reading would've been better for me if she hadn't read anything but continued on her interests in victoriana, the history of speculative fiction, poetry, birds etc and that's before asking her the pbvious question that if this is the case why bother trailing your toboggan full of books thru the snow in order to get people to see her reading at the begining of her career. tho to be fair having seen her signing queue i can absolutely understand a certain lack of enthusiasm!

as for the brittleness - we all have our foibles! lol