Margaret Atwood on her many, many new projects
Margaret Atwood is one of Canada’s most famous writers - and one of the busiest.
Margaret Atwood is one of Canada's most famous writers - and one of the busiest. Shelagh Rogers caught up with the Queen of CanLit at the Writers' at Woody Point Festival to get the 101 on all of Peggy's latest projects.
THE HOGARTH SHAKESPEARE PROJECT
"The Hogarth Shakespeare Project honours of the anniversary of Shakespeare's death. It is a series in which they asked writers around the world to choose a Shakespeare play and revisit it in the form of a prose novel. Jo Nesbø, the murder writer, is doing Macbeth. You can pick your own play. Jeanette Winterson is doing The Winter's Tale. Other people have chosen other plays. I am doing The Tempest. It has so many unresolved questions - like who was Caliban's dad really? I can't tell you too much about it, except that The Tempest is about prisons. Think about it. Every single person in that play, with the exception of Miranda, is imprisoned in some way at some time."
"It was thought up by this brilliant artist called Katie Paterson. She thought, 'Wouldn't it be fun to get one writer a year to deposit a manuscript in a future library, a manuscript that will not be opened and read for 100 years?' By great coincidence, she hooked up with Norway who was building a new library and she talked them into doing this. I went over with my manuscript in an archival box. There are several rules. Number one, you can't tell what's in the box. Number two, no images. It's words only, and in any form. It could be a novel, it could be one word, it could be a story, it could be nonfiction, it could be a journal, but you can't tell what you've put in. Those are the rules."
"Hope Nicholson happens to be an aficionado of comic books and she has been bringing back lost Canadian comic books by running campaigns on Kickstarter. I supported one of her projects, bringing back a Canadian wartime black and white comic campaign. Then she decided to do this project called The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, as girls are underrepresented in the world of comicdom. She has all these female comic artists doing work for this. So I helped her out on that, gave her some perks to put in, and I will draw some comics for it."
"It seems to me that we don't know what prisons are for. We don't know whether they are to reform people, to keep the rest of society safe, to punish people, or some form of payment for crimes done. What, exactly, are they there for? One of the theories is that are they are profit-making private enterprises. In the novel, this has been taken to its logical conclusion. It is a very good profit-making private enterprise, which has also solved the problems of unemployment and homelessness. The people in the project get to spend half of their time as prisoners, and in the next month, they get to be non-prisoners in the town, supplying the guards and the prison staff and the auxiliary services. So you get one month in, one month out. Our story concerns Charmaine and Stan, who were living in their car and not happy in that situation. They see this project advertised on television, apply for it, and get in. But what happens to them then? Read on."
Margaret Atwood's comments have been edited and condensed.