The strangest thing. I was eating on Main St and the server pointed to my book and said “Oh, I’ve heard of her.” And I had to smile and wait for the punchline because the book was Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride. If I had to name an author that I could always get an opinion on, an author who, read or unread, would be recognized, for better or worse, no matter where I went in this country I would name Margaret Atwood. I stumbled, “Oh, she’s, uh, Canadian..” and the initial question was sincere: “Oh, she’s Canadian?” Yep, as Canadian as Meech Lake, my friend.
I told my friend Caelie that our mutual friend Amanda had just read The Handmaid’s Tale. “What? I thought everyone had read that!” she said. I was surprised too. “Don’t they make you read that in school?” she asked but no, I think it just feels that way. The long arm of the law. Mandatory Atwood.
The unfortunate thing. As a teenager, Margaret Atwood was what adults read and I read her books, too. As a result, now that I am an adult, Margaret Atwood is what teenagers read and I read her books, too. As a high school student, when I was generally interested in reading whatever my classmates were not reading, I managed to read Life Before Man, Surfacing, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Dancing Girls. In my first years at SFU, when I was specifically interested in debating NAFTA with everybody, I read The Edible Woman, Wilderness Tips, Oryx and Crake, Lady Oracle, and Cat’s Eye.
Moreso than any other author I know, I date Margaret Atwood so specifically to the date of each novel. The Edible Woman: 1969. Surfacing: 1972. The Handmaid’s Tale: 1985. The Robber Bride: 1993. Oryx and Crake: 2003. Moreso than fashion or music or Trudeau and Mulroney. 40 years of Canada through the lens of novels by Margaret Atwood, or my impression thereof.