Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Margaret Atwood & Graeme Gibson

Thanks to Bookworks, the UNM Creative Writing Program, & the Forest Guardians I (& quite a few others) were able to attend a reading & book-signing by authors Margaret Atwood & Graeme Gibson.

Ms. Atwood spoke first, primarily about her new novel The Year of the Flood, which is, she explained, not a sequel or a prequel to Oryx & Crake but occurs simultaneously--in a Victorian novel, The Year of the Flood would be the "Meanwhile..." chapter, discussing events happening to characters in the book which seem to have nothing to do with the primary story until, later, the stories converge. Ms. Atwood read excerpts from her new book in the voices of each of her three narrators, Toby, Ren, & Adam One. She also played recordings that had been made of the some of the hymns from the book which had been set to music, including Oh Sing We Now the Holy Weeds.

Ms. Atwood also spoke about creating the character Jimmy in Oryx & Crake as a response to people who said she only wrote about female characters & explained that she did research to create Jimmy by having young men of the same age read the manuscript & comment.

Mr. Gibson then read from his new book, The Bedside Book of Beasts: A Wildlife Miscellany, with an accompanying slideshow. A review says of his book, "A fascinating exploration of the chain of life, of survival and mortality. In The Bedside Book of Beasts, Graeme Gibson gathers breathtaking works of art and literature that capture the power, grace, and inventiveness of both predators and their natural prey. The Bedside Book of Beasts evokes a profound sense of the eternal connection between humans and the creatures they endeavor to tame."

After the readings, Ms. Atwood & Mr. Gibson took a number of questions, including suggestions for those suffering from writer's block--Ms. Atwood has had to throw away 2 books due to writer's block, & Mr. Gibson 3, but generally Ms. Atwood suggested trying to change the person (e.g. first person narration to omniscient narrator) or change the tense (e.g. past to present) before throwing away your work. One questioner asked how Ms. Atwood felt to be a 'focal point for students', citing a paper the questioner had written in high school, to which Ms. Atwood had a spirited reply, reminding us that when we read her works, she's not there.

Ms. Atwood & Mr. Gibson, who are a long-standing couple, also fielded numerous questions about their relationship's longevity & possible collaborations. Both were easygoing & very humorous on these rather intimate topics. They don't collaborate, but Ms. Atwood sees Mr. Gibson's work in manuscript form, she joked, because she is the only one who knows how to use punctuation. Ms. Atwood's relationship advice included having a sense of humor & tolerance, which, Mr. Gibson quipped, he had.

Margaret Atwood books
Graeme Gibson books

Hear interviews with Ms. Atwood & Mr. Gibson!

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