A few years ago, Margaret Atwood seemed so averse to doing author tours that she invented the LongPen, a device that enabled her to “sign” books for readers remotely, from the comfort of her own home in Toronto. Times have changed. For her upcoming novel, The Year of the Flood, she’s embarking on a 16-week, six-country tour that will involve staged readings as well as musical performances. She’s scheduled to appear in 10 U.S. cities, beginning Oct. 4 in Denver. Caveat lector: Only some cities will be treated to a full hour-long performance, featuring Atwood as narrator, three local actors acting out scenes, and a local choir singing a selection of the 14 hymns that Atwood has written for the book, with music by L.A.-based composer Orville Stoeber. (There’s one hymn for each chapter in Flood, a follow-up to 2003’s dystopian novel Oryx and Crake.)
“It’s a chance to break free from the traditional structure of a book tour,” Atwood said in a statement to The Toronto Star. “I felt this particular novel deserved a more complex presentation. It’s also a great chance to work with other creative minds and see their interpretation of the story come to light.”
Of course, the once tour-shy author also recognizes the down side to such an ambitious itinerary. After all, she’s publicizing a novel about the survivors of a long-predicted natural disaster that has obliterated much of human life on Earth. Not only will many of the events serve as fund-raisers for various green causes, but Atwood has posted a checklist of ways she’s trying to limit her carbon footprint while on tour: staging events with local talent and food (including “shade-grown, organic, fair-trade coffee”), favoring train travel where possible (she’s taking the Queen Mary 2 to England), and maintaining a mostly vegetarian diet (though she’ll eat eggs, and “non-avian and non-mammalian bioforms once a week” — I guess that means an occasional cheat day for fish, or maybe escargot).
Which do you think is the bigger trend in Atwood’s book tour: Authors staging events that go well beyond the norm of reading and signing? Or carbon-neutral eco-tours? And will you be walking/biking/carpooling to one of Atwood’s tour stops?