To Canada’s snob laureate

Dear Ms. Atwood,

Make no mistake, I am a fan of your literature. The Handmaid’s Tale was one of few books I genuinely enjoyed in high school, and I think your poetry is wonderful.

But let’s talk about your recent literary pursuits for a moment. Oryx and Crake, while a decent read, was by no means amazing for someone like you. In fact, I have a feeling that for the last 20 years, you have been recycling the same material over and over again, much in the same fashion à la—dare I say it—John Grisham or Stephen King. But I must admit: you do it well, you write so swell.

But ... Penelopiad? Did you have to sell out to the gimmicky publishing scheme and mildly humiliate your reputation? Granted, I did not read the book, but popular opinion tells me that it was received lukewarmly at best. I am puzzled as to why you agreed to do this: were you in dire need of extra cash? Did you feel your name was growing dusty, fading into the distant past amalgamated as the “twentieth century?” Of course, I’ll never know the truth, but I have the right to keep wondering.

But all this is quite minor. What really motivated me to speak up was an article I read in the online archive of The Guardian. In the article, you said you wanted to invent a “remote book-signing machine” so that you didn’t have to do any more “grueling tours.” The benefit of this technological creation, you stated, was “a lot less angst, inconvenience, starvation, sitting in airports and eating out of minibars.” The article further indicated that the machine would resemble Rumsfeld’s automated signature writer for the soldiers killed during the Iraq war, but more intricate.

Ms. Atwood, we need to talk.

I understand that you are a busy person. I also understand you are now considered a heavyweight in the literary world. And people who are considered important are allowed to act with a certain level of pretense and snobbery before they are labelled a “snob.” This, however, is beyond all measures of acceptable pretensions.

You see, people show up to your book signings because they like you. They liked your book well enough to come and actually TELL you how much they liked it. Isn’t it nice? Didn’t you like getting positive feedback as a newly aspiring writer? I know you probably have enough credentials to not need outside feedback anymore, but surely you remember that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Those people want to take time out of their busy day to come meet you in person. They want to talk to you about your work and be inspired by you. And who knows, there is a chance you might learn something new from them too.

Much of literature has become—sadly—a solitary activity, but surely you remember that literature started with an oral tradition that carried on a strong sense of community, communication and camaraderie. Frankly, I am flabbergasted by your audacity—no, arrogance—to somberly suggest such a cold-hearted and impersonal device, while you have made a name for yourself as an author revealing the stark effects of alienation in human nature.

Remember that time you got on CBC and taught viewers how to play soccer? That was the first time I noticed Margaret Atwood had a sense of humour, and I liked her. Please tell me she’s coming back soon.

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