It really was a dark and stormy night in late November as War Memorial Hall filled with people coming to hear the wily and brilliant Margaret Atwood, a guest of The Bookshelf and Café Philosophique. A whole range of fans, from the gray-haired set to wonderfully inspired students, listened, laughed, and loved their way through the evening.
Atwood was in incredible form, particularly considering her three hour drive from Toronto. She was hysterically funny in her introduction, both serious and comedic in her interview with Catherine Bush, straightforward and honest in the questions and answers, and exceedingly kind and patient to every person who lined up to have their Atwood libraries signed.
But the thing that shocked me was how vast her data base is. She can access the most technical details of almost anything that you want to discuss, from the parts per billion of carbon in the air to the arcana of the bible. Here’s just a personal example. I had thanked her at the end of the evening for her insightful article in the Guardian about Doris Lessing who had just died. She had apparently tossed it off while waiting for a plane. I explained to her that I had wanted the Golden Notebook to be in our 40 Books 40 Years contest until I realized that it had been published a year before we opened. She looked up at me and said, “When did you open?” “1973”, I replied. “No, 1962” she retorted. Damn, I thought. As soon as I got home I looked it up….and guess who was right. Google, move over!