Small Talk: Margaret Atwood
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Born in Ottawa in 1939, Margaret Atwood studied English Literature at Toronto and Harvard universities and is the author of more than 30 works of fiction, poetry and critical essays. The Blind Assassin won the Man Booker prize in 2000. She lives in Toronto.
Who is your perfect reader?
Somebody who gets the joke.
Which books are on your bedside table?
My bedside table is quite large – and on it are some of the 145 novels that I’m reading for the Scotiabank Giller Prize [for Canadian fiction] of which I’m a judge. I’m also reading Feral by George Monbiot and Richard Mabey’s Weeds and Turned Out Nice Again.
Where do you write best?
Planes, trains and ships are good because nobody phones.
What would you go back and change?
I would like to be taller. Not a lot taller, just 3in taller. I’d prefer to be about 5ft 7in, which is the new normal. I used to be the normal, but not any more.
What’s your current favourite word?
The most peculiar word that I’ve just come across, not necessarily my favourite, is “jorts”, meaning jean shorts. It actually sounds like something I might have made up myself.
How do you relax?
Cross-country skiing. I always take a foghorn in case I topple over and can’t get up.
What book do you wish you had written?
The complete works of William Shakespeare would do me nicely, thank you.
What are you most proud of writing?
I’m Canadian. We’re not allowed to have emotions like that.
How would you earn your living if you had to give up writing?
A highly paid position in which I didn’t have to do very much work. If I could go back in time, I could be a lord and have a lot of perks and wouldn’t have to do anything. All I would have to do is gamble, drink and squander my estate.
Which literary character would you like to play in a film?
Miss Havisham. I think I’d be very good at that. I used to dress up as a witch for Halloween, so I could dig up my costume and my cackling voice.
What is your favourite place in the world?
The Canadian Arctic. It is spectacular – a life-changing landscape.
Who are your literary influences?
I’m too old to have any at the moment. In high school, it was Ernest Hemingway, Katherine Mansfield and Ray Bradbury.
Margaret Atwood’s latest novel is ‘MaddAddam’ (Bloomsbury)