The Handmaid’s Tale: A Lecture

I got to see one of my literary heroes in person last night. Needless to say, it was a bit surreal. Margaret Atwood is, if possible, even more wry & witty in person than in her books.‬

She began her lecture by recounting the ways that The Handmaid’s Tale has been adapted to modern culture. “Have I seen the YouTube video called ‘They Finally Made a Handmaid’s Tale for Men’ by Funny or Die?.. I have.”

Next, she took the audience through a quick sweep of various religions that she’s found interesting over time. An agnostic herself, Atwood grew up around scientists and says that she does not worship science like a religion. She went through a phase as a young adult of being interested in various religions. However, at the end of the day, while religion certainly has its place in the world, she’s satisfied to be an outside observer, saying “I decided I wouldn’t want to be part of any religion that would have me.”

At the end, she took questions from the audience. The final question came from a St. Mary’s student who apologized for her triteness as she asked, “What was it like to be at the Emmy’s?” The audience roared with laughter before a round of applause. Then, with her delightfully dry humor, Atwood took us into the Emmy’s through her eyes. “I was very short,” she said. “I was very old. And being on the red carpet is the closest I’d like to come to being on the opposite end of a firing squad.”

“One reason to write books is to find answers you don’t know. Another is the vicarious thrill of bumping people off.” -Margaret Atwood gets cheeky in response to a question from the audience

I was introduced to Atwood two years ago when I picked up a copy of The Edible Woman from my library and sped through it over a Christmas break. Since then, I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, The Heart Goes Last, Hag-Seed, The Penelopiad, Alias Grace, a collection of essays called Writing With Intent, and I’m currently making my way through Cat’s Eye. Near the end of the lecture – in a satirical jab at dogma – Atwood sang a hymn from her Maddaddam trilogy. I think Oryx and Crake has just jumped to the top of my TBR list.

I’m grateful to the Christian Culture Lecture Series at St. Mary’s College for bringing Margaret Atwood to South Bend.

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