Four years ago in November the Department of English at Laurentian University held the first Margaret Atwood Birthday Dinner to celebrate the life and work of Canada’s premier writer. This year, on November 13th, Margaret Atwood herself attended to the delight of a sold out hall of 240 dinner guests. Reading from her newest work, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (Toronto: Anansi, 2008), Ms. Atwood also treated guests to some impromptu joking and a concluding comment that events such as the dinner at Laurentian U, in its uniqueness, provide real assurance that Canadian culture is thriving.
With proceeds going to a proposed Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre on campus, the evening’s program included a welcome and blessing of the food by a Native elder, and an honour song by a Native women’s drumming group. Such traditional food as venison stew and wild rice was served. Before Ms. Atwood spoke, well-known Sudbury actor Pandora Topp performed a monologue by Canada’s foremost indigenous playwright, Tomson Highway. Following dinner and the program, Ms. Atwood signed copies of fans’ books for approximately an hour.
The original purpose of the Margaret Atwood Birthday dinners was to create an occasion for fans throughout the world to meet on or near the date of her birth, November 18th, to celebrate together by eating appropriate foods, drinking appropriate drinks, sharing stories, reading favourite passages, and toasting her life and work. Considering the impact Ms. Atwood’s writing has had on so many people in so many countries, we in the English Department at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada believe that these dinners are and will continue to be a fitting tribute. For posting on our website, we welcome news of yours.