Margaret Atwood, prophetess of future doom, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and The MaddAddam Trilogy, and extraordinary Canadian, will appear in conversation with author Kelly Corrigan at Lowell High School’s Carol Channing Theater on Sept. 24. A joint production of Book Passage and Curran as part of the latter’s Show & Tell series, it’s also a forum for her to discuss her forthcoming novel and Handmaid’s Tale sequel, The Testaments. Tickets are $65, with 100 students attending for free. (May the Lord open.)
The 79-year-old Atwood grew up in a scientifically rigorous family in Ottawa, and in her nearly six-decade career, has produced more than a dozen novels, several short story and poetry collections, children’s books, and nonfiction works — as well as the LongPen, a device that allows you to sign things in ink at any distance, via a tablet. She’s also trained in the art of palmistry, via a neighbor who had a keen interest in the works of Hieronymous Bosch.
Atwood reminds her readers that she writes “speculative fiction,” not science fiction, of which the feminist The Handmaid’s Tale is the best example (although she was already famous in Canada before that). A 1985 best-seller about a brutal Christian theocracy called Gilead that overthrows the United States in the wake of a fertility crisis and strips women of all their political rights, it ties environmental catastrophe to the right-wing backlash that fueled the Moral Majority of the Reagan era. Having become a rather grim parallel to our own political situation, it later debuted as a Netflix original series with Elizabeth Moss as Offred, the titular handmaid. And after years of demurrals, Atwood has written a sequel at last.
“Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book,” Atwood says in a release. “Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”
Although The Handmaid’s Tale ends ambiguously, with an epilogue in the form of an academic conference on the Gilead Era more than a century into the future, The Testaments will combine three separative narratives set 15 years after Offred’s attempts to get pregnant at the hands of the Commander and his ex-televangelist wife, Serena Joy, and her possible entanglements with a resistance organization.
Margaret Atwood, in conversation with Kelly Corrigan, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m., at Lowell High School, $65, sfcurran.com/shows/margaret-atwood