Margaret Atwood: Author, Activist, Inventor Extraordinaire

On her birthday, here’s a look at Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s wonderfully surreal legacy.

3 min read
There is a wonderfully fey quality to Margaret Atwood, in person and in fiction.

(This story was first published on 18 November 2015 and is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Margaret Atwood’s birthday.)

The best way, the only way really, to talk about authors is to talk about their work – that magical mass of letters, words, and sentences they have birthed into existence. And Margaret Atwood has a truly admirable body of work behind her, ranging from poetry collections like Double Persephone (1961), The Door (2007) to non-fiction titles like Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (2008) to her celebrated speculative works of fiction like The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and the Booker winning The Blind Assassin (2000). The frighteningly prolific Atwood also has TV scripts, libretti and comic strips to her name.

Atwood’s book jackets are always distinctive in their gorgeousness.
Atwood’s book jackets are always distinctive in their gorgeousness.
(Photo Courtesy: Margaret Atwood‘s Facebook page)

The emotional and thematic spectrum of Atwood’s work is exhilarating. Whether she is writing about dystopian nightmares where women are forced into sexual slavery or about intrusive landladies, or female friendships, her treatment of her subject is uniquely hers – there are no clean resolutions to be found and comforting platitudes are examined with almost surgical precision. This doesn’t make her work dry or boring; far from it, in fact. Here’s her poem You Fit Into Me for instance,

You fit into me
Like a hook into an eye

A fish hook
An open eye

She Is Game For Experimental Ideas- Like the One Where Her Book Won’t Be Published For 100 Years

Atwood twinkles at a talk at the Unterberg Poetry Center in New York.
Atwood twinkles at a talk at the Unterberg Poetry Center in New York.
(Photo Courtesy: Margaret Atwood‘s Facebook page)

Imagine labouring over a book.

Imagine nights spent tossing restlessly among sheets while characters, plots and dialogues run riotously through your head.

Imagine writing it all down and pruning it bit by excruciating bit over a period of weeks, days, months.

Now, imagine knowing for certain that you will be long gone by the time it is published.

This is essentially what Margaret Atwood signed up for when she became the first contributor to the Future Library Project, which planted one thousand trees in Norway’s Nordmarka forest, to be used in 2114 to publish the works donated by large-hearted writers. Atwood’s Scribbler Moon is held in manuscript form by the Project until then, forever out of the reach of every person reading these words.

Not Content With Weaving Magic With Words, She’s An Inventor Too

Margaret Atwood chats via LongPen with friend and fellow novelist Alice Munro.
Margaret Atwood chats via LongPen with friend and fellow novelist Alice Munro.
(Photo: LongPen‘s Facebook page)

Atwood invented the LongPen, a remote signing device that allows a person to remotely write in ink anywhere in the world via tablet PC and the internet. It also allows for an audio and video conversation between the endpoints, such as a fan and author, while a book is being signed. Co-founder and director of Syngrafii Incorporated, she holds several patents related to the LongPen technology.

She is a Dedicated Environmental Activist

Not only does Atwood engage with the issue of humanity’s moral responsibility to nature and the animal kingdom in books like The Edible Woman (1969) and The Year of the Floods (2009), she is also a part of numerous activist organisations, like BirdLife International, and regularly holds lectures and talks at various centres about eco-conservation. Her book MaddAddam (2013) was awarded the prize for the best environmental book of the year by Orion magazine.

So, as one of the most admirable woman in the world celebrates her birthday, here’s wishing her many, many more years of greatness, literary and otherwise.

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