Canadian writer Margaret Atwood attends the book fair America on September 13, 2014 in Vincennes, France. (Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)

The First Lady of Canadian Literature, Margaret Atwood, turned 75 this week (Nov. 18, 20914)! Here, she joins Zoomer’s Mike Crisolago to discuss the difference between “stories” and “tales,” short fiction’s Canadian appeal, and whether she ever imagined she'd have a beer named in her honour.

Why her new book, Stone Mattress, is not a collection of “stories,” but “tales”…

MARGARET ATWOOD: Well one often thinks of stories as being social realism entirely. So tales are a little bit further towards the bizarre. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a tale. Frankenstein is a tale. Middlemarch is realistic fiction. There aren’t any untoward happenings.

On her fascination with Charles Bonnet Syndrome (it appears in one of her tales), which causes sufferers to experience hallucinations, sometimes including visions of miniature people and/or items…

MA: I’ve known somebody who had that. And it’s pretty interesting … I think quite a few people had it without knowing what it was and were rather scared by it. They thought that these little people might actually be living in the clock. You would, if you saw these very realistic costumed little people, you would wonder what was going on. And if your relatives didn’t know about it and you described it to them, they would just think you’d been drinking.

In the wake of Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize and Lynn Coady’s Giller, both awarded in 2013, how short fiction has proven a very Canadian genre…

MA: It has been something that Canadians have been good at for a long time. Morley Callaghan made his living writing short stories for glossy magazines … There’s also Mavis Gallant, who just died this year, and really quite a number of people who have written in that form in Canada. I think, originally, because that’s what you could publish. There was a market for it in Canada where it was a lot harder to get a novel published. So that encouraged people to write them quite early on and if you look at the collections of them there have been some really quite noteworthy writers of them. And I think online has made it possible for people to publish more extensively that way, in ways that they might not otherwise have done.

On the “art” of the short story…

MA: I hate to be very, very minimalist, but stories are shorter. [Laughs] So therefore it’s…more condensed.

The length of time it takes for her to write a short tale as opposed to a novel…

MA: Sometimes one minute, sometimes 10 years. It’s variable, like everything else in life. It’s like, “How long does it take you to eat your dinner?” Well, it depends how big the dinner is.

Why social media is a natural evolution of how humans have always communicated…

MA: There have always been short forms of writing. They used to be called things like epigrams, parables, fables, telegrams, graffiti – as long as people have known how to write they’ve been scratching things on walls. And pretty much the same kind of thing that they scratch on walls now. Like, “Ingrid was here.” Or, there was an exhibit of stuff they found in Pompeii when it was buried by a volcano and one of them was a tavern. And there were drawings and graffiti on the tavern walls. So if you want to know how to say “c**ksucker” in Latin, you go to that exhibit because that’s what it says. [Laughs] … So we’ve been doing the short thing for a long time – the Internet has just enabled us to do it more. And more publicly. But we’re still doing the other ones too, if you read walls as I do. And the other short forms, of course, were advertisements – very short, has to be punchy, make an impression.

On whether she ever imagined she’d have a beer – AnooBroo, by Beau’s All Natural Brewing – named in her honour…

MA: No, not ever. Not once ever. We used to sit around and say, “Well, if something was named in your honour what would it be? Would it be the Margaret Atwood Tavern? Would it be the Margaret Atwood Tea and Bun Shop?” But we never said beer. [Laughs] But it’s a fundraiser, as you know, for the Pelee Island Bird Observatory.

Atwood’s collection of short tales, Stone Mattress, is available in stores and online.

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