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Margaret Atwood and the Labour of Literary Celebrity

Margaret Atwood and the Labour of Literary Celebrity

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
  • Book Info
    Margaret Atwood and the Labour of Literary Celebrity
    Book Description:

    This informative study calls overdue attention to the ways in which literary celebrity is the result not only of a writer's creativity and hard work, but also of an ongoing collaborative effort among professionals to help maintain the writer's place in the public eye.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6493-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: The Dead Moose and the Publishing Pie
    (pp. 3-31)

    In the summer of 2011, Margaret Atwood’s visibility as a Canadian literary celebrity came under sustained and energetic public scrutiny. It all began on 21 July, when she marshalled her considerable ranks of followers – 225,302 strong (Samson) – on Twitter to fight proposed cuts to Toronto’s library system. The city had just received a report from its hired consultants KPMG (whose corporate motto is, ominously, “Cutting Through Complexity” []), which recommended that the system be privatized, that cuts be made to library outreach services and programs, and that some branches possibly be closed. Atwood retweeted in response: “Toronto’s libraries are under...

  5. 1 “You Are a Necessity of Life”: Atwood and Literary Agency
    (pp. 32-67)

    On 25 October 1965, a still unknown young Canadian poet and novelist mailed a copy of her novel manuscript to S. J. Totten, an editor with McClelland and Stewart. Before signing off, she thought it advisable to add the following postscript: “P.S. It may not be pertinent, but perhaps I should tell you that I have acquired an agent, in London. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to do, but Jane DESERT OF THE HEART Rule said I ought to have one and kindly supplied me with hers” (Atwood MS COLL 200.92:1). The offhand tone is understandable, under the circumstances;...

  6. 2 “Who’s the Very Best at Spellin’?”: Editing Margaret Atwood
    (pp. 68-98)

    On her website, the American science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin observes that there is a “good deal of misunderstanding, these days, about what editors actually do” (Ursula K. Le Guin). Editors tend to agree; in his preface to the third edition of his standard text on the editor’s craft,Editors on Editing, long-time editor Gerald Gross observes that the “list of myths and erroneous assumptions” about editors “goes on and on and on” (xiii). For her part, Le Guin set out to clear up some of that misunderstanding by running a short article on the subject...

  7. 3 Keeping O.W. Toad Hopping Along: The Atwood Office
    (pp. 99-124)

    No doubt the office that Alan Delgado was thinking of when he wrote his social history in 1979 was that cubicle-filled, fluorescent-lighted space that had already given rise to decades of comic treatment inNew Yorkercartoons – the same clearing house for endless paperwork and prickly personal interaction that has inspired the British and American television seriesThe Office. Still, his definition provides a productive starting point for my analysis of a much more specific “enterprise,” the company that Margaret Atwood formed in order to handle the increasing complexities of her literary career. Dubbed O.W. Toad, an anagram of “Atwood,”...

  8. 4 @MargaretAtwood: Interactive Media and the Management of Literary Celebrity
    (pp. 125-159)

    On 11 February 2011, the media trends site Mediabistro announced that “Margaret Atwood’s Got ‘Klout’ on Twitter” (Dilworth). The site, which assigns scores to Twitter users for the extent of their influence in the “Twitterverse,” had just classified Atwood as “a Taste Maker” on the basis of her impressive scores. As the accompanying blurb on explained, in language that recalls the keys to teenage girls’ magazine surveys on popularity, “You know what you like and your audience likes it too. You know what’s trending, but you do more than just follow the crowd. You have your own opinion...

  9. 5 “The Cloak of Visibility”: Art and Industry in the Works of Margaret Atwood
    (pp. 160-195)

    In her Empson Lectures,Negotiating with the Dead, delivered at Cambridge in 2000, Margaret Atwood briefly drew upon a metaphor that was surely a familiar one to her English audience: the fictional wunderkind Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility. Speaking of the condition of the writer who (like Harry’s creator) becomes a public persona, Atwood declared that “the nobody-writer must throw off the cloak of invisibility and put on the cloak of visibility.” She immediately followed up her observation with a less predictable, distinctly non-literary source: “As Marilyn Monroe is rumored to have said, ‘If you’re nobody you can’t be somebody...

  10. Postscript: Margaret Atwood for Mayor? Literary Celebrity in the Civic Realm
    (pp. 196-200)

    On a chilly day in the autumn of 2010, as I was part-way through the writing of this book, my then-university-student daughter Anna took me on a brief walking tour of a Toronto neighbourhood. She had a specific destination in mind. Knowing that I was working on this project, she wanted to show me some graffiti she had discovered one day while walking around the Spadina–Chinatown area: “Atwood 4 Mayor.” After a few turns down side streets, we found it.

    Like Atwood an energetic user of social media, Anna took a photograph with her BlackBerry and tweeted it, along...

  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 201-214)
  12. Index
    (pp. 215-220)