Have you ever wondered how Margaret Atwood writes books? In this episode of Remarkable People, she explains her tactics and techniques. She also spends quite a while geeking out about Macintosh.
Margaret Atwood is the author of The Handmaid‘s Tale and its sequel, The Testaments, as well as more than fifty other books. She is a two-time Booker Award winner.
Her writing serves as a warning of what can happen if we do not protect our rights and resist totalitarian and theocratic governments.
While the topics she covers are quite serious and even “heavy,” this is an enchanting and humorous interview in which Guy laughs out very loud (LOVL) many times.
This week’s question is:
Question: How do you define your moral compass?
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Guy Kawasaki: This is Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. And now, here is Margaret Atwood. Guy Kawasaki: Would your English teacher in high school say, "I knew Margaret Atwood would be this kind of writer, this kind of success"? Guy Kawasaki: And would she say she knew? Guy Kawasaki: Guy Kawasaki: Well, if you had known what you were getting into, would you have continued? Guy Kawasaki: This is Remarkable People.
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Getting an interview with Margaret Atwood was a lesson from The Handmaid's Tale. Atwood and I spoke at the same event, but the host organization prevented me from talking to her, even threatening me a little. Nevertheless, I persisted. Atwood was brilliant and funny at the event. You can tell if a person is smart by her level of wit. The more acerbic, the smarter. Atwood is off the charts.
After being thwarted at the event, I told the story to my best friend in Canada, Amber MacArthur. She knew both Atwood and her agent, and helped make the interview happen a few weeks later. So, this is Margaret Atwood ... writer, poet, speaker, and predictor of the future. Two time Booker Award winner.
By the way, this podcast contains a touch of profanity. Yes, that's right. Atwood let an F-bomb fly. She's an inspiration to everyone who is trying to resist a dystopian, theocratic, fascist society.
All I can say is thank God, the living sympathetic, empathetic, inclusive, truthful God for Margaret Atwood.
Margaret Atwood: Okay. I had a couple of English teachers in high school.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. Would any of them think that?
Margaret Atwood: Okay. So my favorite was called Miss Laurent Smedley. Miss Laurent Smedley had long, white floating hair. And she used to revolve in a circle while reciting Kublai Khan from memory. She made a deep impression on me.
And they came back years ago to do a documentary section on me once I was "famous,” and they asked her that English teacher question, and she said, quite admirably, "She showed no particular promise in my class."
So usually, of course, you get, "Oh yes, I knew at once she was so talented," et cetera. But in this case, Miss Laurent Smedley was correct. I wasn't showing any particular talent in her class. I was too busy watching her revolved around in a circle.
But my next English teacher, called Miss Bessie Billings, was quite keen on what I was by then writing, and I wrote a short story about Miss Bessie Billings, her real name, and it is called My Last Duchess, and that was her teaching style.
She was quite a famous English teacher. She sort of hauled you by the back hairs, through the curriculum that we had to do in order to pass this terrifying set of exams that was going on in the fifties, and she was awfully good at it.
Margaret Atwood: I kept in touch with her in later years, and she was very keen on my, by then, accomplishments, but she's also the one who famously said about a poem of mine that I showed her, "Well, I can't understand a word of this, dear, so it must be good."
Okay. I love that story.
Margaret Atwood: Wait a minute. No, don't think so. Yes. Anyway, she was quite encouraging.
Guy Kawasaki: I've seen and read things where you say you knew you wanted to be a writer at sixteen.
Margaret Atwood: Yes, I did. But of course, I was quite ignorant of what that might involve. I knew nothing about publishing. I knew nothing about any of the processes, and that was because Canada in those years, was very much a backwater, and we hardly had a native publishing industry then.
Margaret Atwood: Probably yes, but more advisedly. I mean, I was so lacking in knowledge of anything that I went and got a copy of Writer's Market, and Writer's Markets listed at the back, all of the kinds of writing that you could sell, and how much you would get paid for it, and none of them were the kinds of things that I really wanted to do, but it was basically magazine markets.
And the ones that paid the most were true romance magazines. So I thought, "I can do this." Wrong, as it turned out, I think. I couldn't.
Thought I was going to write true romance stories of the kind the magazine would have a girl with a tear coming out of her eye in the foreground, and then there would be a different girl with a young man in the background and that was the plot.
Guy Kawasaki: Oh, God.
Margaret Atwood: I thought, "I can do this." But you actually have to have a--you can't just do it cold as it turns out. I could think up the plots, but I could not believe in them.
Guy Kawasaki: How did you make this transition?
Margaret Atwood: From what to what?
Guy Kawasaki: Well, from reading magazines about romance novels to becoming what you are.
Margaret Atwood: Okay. Well, the true romance stories were a failure. That was not going to be how I was going to make my living.
So, I did end up, after a flirtation with being a journalist from which I was dissuaded by a second cousin who really was a journalist, and he said, "If you work for a newspaper, you will write the ladies' pages and the obituaries." Remember, it was the mid-fifties. So I thought, "Well, I don't want to do that." So I hi-hoed off to university and took English Literature.
Guy Kawasaki: I have written fifteen books. I know you've written about sixty, but I'm very curious about your craft of writing. Do you use a computer? Do you write on longhand? How do you…
Margaret Atwood: I usually kick off in longhand because that is, in fact, how I learned. And my career, my wrong career choice in high school was that I didn't take touch typing. I should've taken something called Secretarial Sciences, and that would have been typing and shorthand, but I did not.
Guy Kawasaki: You know, a funny story I can tell you, that Jane Goodall took secretarial skills when she was young, and that enabled her to get a job with the Leakey’s, which enabled her to get to Africa, and the rest is history.
Margaret Atwood: Well you see, that is--I believe that, and I can see how that all would have worked, but I thought I was going to go into home economics. So I was in that stream, rather than the Secretarial Sciences. You want your zipper fixed? I can do that for you.
Guy Kawasaki: To this day?
Margaret Atwood: I just can't touch type.
Guy Kawasaki: But I saw you using a Macintosh. You looked okay with the--
Margaret Atwood: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It's four fingers, though.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay.
Margaret Atwood: So I have to look, and computers were a great help to me because you can correct those typos.
Guy Kawasaki: So, you've never worked from an outline? You just start writing complete sentences?
Margaret Atwood: Yeah. I did try working from an outline once. It was a failure.
So, once I'm quite thoroughly into it, I start pushing things around and rearranging them, and that starts looking like a pattern, but I need to get in first.
Guy Kawasaki: How do you push things around or rearrange them if they're all on paper?
Margaret Atwood: Well, it used to be called cutting and pasting which actually is scissors and scotch tape, or paste. So you could cut chunks of type out and stick them in other places. You can do that on a computer quite easily.
Guy Kawasaki: Yes. Do you have a discipline where you get up in the morning and you write first before you get distracted?
Margaret Atwood: You know, I would really like to have all those things you're supposed to have, but it's too late. I'm afraid it's pretty haphazard. Planes are good. Trains are good if they're not too rattle-y.
Guy Kawasaki: Because there's no distractions?
Margaret Atwood: You got it.
Guy Kawasaki: Yeah. When people ask me, "Well, where do you write?" I usually tell them, "Well, United 3-A's my best place." So, which is a lot--
Margaret Atwood: United 3-A.
Guy Kawasaki: It's a lot better than United 35-J, so!
Margaret Atwood: You like the window seat.
Guy Kawasaki: I do. I do.
Margaret Atwood: Yeah. I'm with you. Yes, I like the window seat, too.
Guy Kawasaki: And do you work with a content editor or someone breathing down your neck? Or you just turn it in and say, "I'm Margaret Atwood."
Margaret Atwood: No, I finish the manuscript. I finish the draft. Then it goes to two kinds of people: My agent and editors, on the one hand, and on the other hand, people who just like to read books.
Guy Kawasaki: And they tell you what? And what happens?
Margaret Atwood: They tell me, depending on what's in the book, I sometimes get experts in the field. So for instance, when I had a book with history, nineteenth century history of Toronto, and I had a friend who was in the story and then he read it and he said, "That's not who was in Toronto at that time. There weren't any Italians, but there were some Germans,” so I change the demographic. Things like that.
Or for instance, I wrote a book in which the narrator was a young man with commitment issues. So I got a reader who was a young man with commitment issues to say what he thought of it, and he said the following: He gave me two tips. He said, "First of all, don't say, 'What in the fuck.' Say, 'What the fuck.'"
Guy Kawasaki: You're kidding!
Margaret Atwood: And second, he said, "That's not how you smoke a joint." But then I said, "But what do you think of the--how did I do the character? What do you think of that?" And he says, "Well, hmm." Then he said, "How did you know?" So, I took that as a yes.
But earlier on, I had another male narrator, and I gave it to the man, and he gave me a very good tip, which I wouldn't have thought of. He said, "You cannot shave off a full beard with an electric razor."
Guy Kawasaki: Ah.
Margaret Atwood: Ah.
Guy Kawasaki: So you have to cut it with a scissors first?
Margaret Atwood: Well, you have to cut it with a straight razor.
Guy Kawasaki: Aha.
Margaret Atwood: That'll take it off, but if you start with the electric razor, it'll just get all snarled up. Electric razors are just good for close shaves, and I'm surprised you didn't know that!
Guy Kawasaki: Well, what can I say? I could never grow a beard. I just--I don't have enough testosterone.
Margaret Atwood: Well, there you are. You've never had to have that experience.
Guy Kawasaki: I learn something every day, Margaret.
Margaret Atwood: Yep. No. So did I, and luckily, I could then change that part of the text because you know if you make a mistake like that, you're going to get a lot of “once upon a time,” letters. Now, social media, beginning, "You idiot. Don't you know anything?"
Guy Kawasaki: I'm going to read you a short passage from Handmaid's Tale. So, "She was fumbling in her robe for her pass, and they thought she was hunting for a bomb. They thought she was a man in disguise." So basically, you wrote that thirty-some odd years ago.
Margaret Atwood: Yeppers.
Guy Kawasaki: Yeah. And how do you come up with something like that? That was like, it's you, George Orwell and Arthur C. Clarke. I mean, what special gift do you possess, that makes you come up with something like that?
Margaret Atwood: It's nothing new. It's patterns that repeat. So, George Orwell called his book 1984, because essentially, he was writing about 1948, writing about Stalinism, and he was writing about what that would feel like if it were in England.
And Arthur C. Clarke, are you thinking of Hal the Computer, or which of his creations?
Guy Kawasaki: Yeah, that one. Yes, Hal.
Margaret Atwood: Yeah. Well, people were already worried about that, and Fahrenheit 451, another one. So, I read a lot of those books in the fifties.
Guy Kawasaki: So, are you saying it's not a special gift? You were just observant of history?
Margaret Atwood: I think it's a special interest. It's a special interest. So, if you have that special interest, you were noticing things that other people might not be aware of, or attracted to, or might not notice.
If you're interested in dogs, you're going to notice all the dogs on the street and other people might just not see them. Or if you're interested in fascisms and authoritarianisms, you are interested in the symptom.
Guy Kawasaki: I will offer you--if you ever write a book where there's an aspect of tech or nerds or geeks or Silicon Valley, I would be happy to be your reader to tell you…
Margaret Atwood: I know some of them already. I even know some girl ones.
Guy Kawasaki: It's not the Macintosh. It's Macintosh, for example.
Margaret Atwood: Exactly! Yes. No, well, yes. I have some of those in my family.
Guy Kawasaki: I volunteer. Okay.
Margaret Atwood: You weren't a coder?
Guy Kawasaki: No, not at all. I was-
Margaret Atwood: No, no, no, no, no…
Guy Kawasaki: I was an evangelist. Not evangelical, okay? Evangelist. So, my job--
Margaret Atwood: You were a front man.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, I take that as the insult you meant it, but it was my job to convince people to write Macintosh software and hardware for the Macintosh division.
Margaret Atwood: So, "Come into our company and do this thing."
Guy Kawasaki: Yes.
Margaret Atwood: I got my first one when they just had floppy disks. They had the tiny little window, and they had the floppy disks that would get stuck, and then you would have to use the hair pin to get them out.
Guy Kawasaki: Oh, my God. You're bringing back memories. Yes, yes.
Margaret Atwood: Well, you know about Hal the Paperclip?
Guy Kawasaki: No.
Margaret Atwood: No.
Guy Kawasaki: You mean the paperclip that you unbend to stick into the hole to pop out the disk?
Margaret Atwood: Okay. So, once upon a time, on one of these programs, there was a little guy in a box who would come and dance around on the screen when you were having problems, and he would particularly say things like, "You seem to be trying to write a letter. How may I help you?" And then he would jump up and down with him. It was a cartoon image.
But there was another one called Hal the Paperclip, that would similarly appear and try and give you a hand, and had great big googly…You don't remember this?
Guy Kawasaki: No, I don't. Maybe I never had trouble!
Margaret Atwood: Maybe you didn't. Yes. I never saw him outside that program, but I did use to get the little guy in the box, and I was quite fond of it.
Guy Kawasaki: That's funny. That's funny.
Do you think the impact of fiction is increasing or decreasing? What with all the social media and everything else that's happening?
Margaret Atwood: Fiction.
Guy Kawasaki: Fiction.
Margaret Atwood: I think it's increasing.
Guy Kawasaki: And why?
Margaret Atwood: Why? Well, it seems everybody wants to be a writer. So I refer you to a social platform called Wattpad. You know about it?
Guy Kawasaki: It's like a platform for people to write books and they help you structure things, and all-
Margaret Atwood: It's a story-sharing site. They typically write in installments. They're typically quite young, and they can do it on their phones, and it has a huge membership.
I think of those kinds of things as literacy aides. So they help people to be interested in reading and writing.
Guy Kawasaki: I have to say, I'm so impressed you know all about that kind of stuff. And in your talk at the Facebook event, you talked about a product called…I think it's Stasher or Stash? It's that plastic sandwich bag that you--
Margaret Atwood: Oh, Stasher, S-T-A-S-H-E-R. Stasher, yeah. I highly recommend it. Made of silicone.
Guy Kawasaki: When you mentioned that, I know people who know the people at Stasher, I said, "Oh, you got to tell them that Margaret talked about your program. I mean, your product on... "
Margaret Atwood: Yeah. I could be an influencer. Just think of that.
Guy Kawasaki: You could! You could be the new Kim Kardashian! It's never too late.
Margaret Atwood: Yeah. I could doll myself up and do Youtubes and sell hot, new products.
Guy Kawasaki: It's never too late.
Margaret Atwood: Well, I don't know about that…
Guy Kawasaki: Do you think that, particularly with Handmaid's Tale, do you think that serialized TV is the new novel?
Margaret Atwood: Serialized TV is the new Cineplex movie-- Cineplex movie, with surround sound. It is a format that enables novels that have been translated to the screen to be the length they really are. So with ninety minutes, if you take War and Peace and try to get it to ninety minutes, you're going to have a problem.
Guy Kawasaki: Yes.
Margaret Atwood: Any sort of long novels. And a lot of nineteenth century novels were long, because they were essentially like long serial TV shows. You couldn't read the whole thing at one setting, so you would read it in installments, and the serialized web-streamed format is much better for them than trying to cram them into a ninety-minute film.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay.
Margaret Atwood: So it's given a whole new lease of life to the filming of long novels. Game of Thrones, just for example. I mean, it's a multi-volume series. You could never get--you'd never begin to get it into a ninety-minute film.
Guy Kawasaki: Which gives you greater satisfaction, someone who reads The Handmaid's Tale, or someone who watches it?
Margaret Atwood: You know, it actually doesn't matter because once you've finished your work and sent it out into the world, you're not there when people are watching or reading. The person whose satisfaction counts at that point, is theirs.
Guy Kawasaki: What does The Margaret Atwood binge-watch?
Margaret Atwood: What do I watch?
Guy Kawasaki: Binge-watch. In the sense that you watch the whole series--
Margaret Atwood: What do I binge-watch? Okay. Right now, I'm watching an older one called--Benedict Cumberbatch playing Sherlock Holmes, from a while ago, but what my pals are all telling me that I have to watch is something called The Crown. They're very keen on that, and I have stored up something called The Wire, which I am told by younger people I probably won't understand. I'm willing to give it a try.
Guy Kawasaki: The Wire, as in the thing in Baltimore, about the prison and the drug trade, and all that?
Margaret Atwood: Yeah, yeah. That one.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay…
Margaret Atwood: Yeah. And they say it's very rapid fire.
Guy Kawasaki: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. You know, Margaret, right now we're at twenty-nine minutes, and I was told twenty minutes. So I don't know if--I don't want to wear out my welcome. I have more questions for you, but...
Margaret Atwood: You don't--you don't want to hear about how I left my computer on a plane by mistake because I was watching Captain Underpants?
Guy Kawasaki: I'll take that story anytime!
Margaret Atwood: I got it back. I got it back.
Guy Kawasaki: You did?
Margaret Atwood: I did. Thanks to the magic of Direct Message on Twitter.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. So this is a good story in and of itself because typically, it takes days and days. It has to flow from the maintenance department to the Lost and Found, and Lost and Found has to categorize it. How long did it take you?
Margaret Atwood: Well, you are obviously not a person of modern time.
Guy Kawasaki: I beg to differ. So how long did it take you?
Margaret Atwood: It took me two hours.
Guy Kawasaki: And what airline is this? I'm going to start flying on that airline.
Margaret Atwood: Okay. So, the secret is, and I found this out when I had to escape a blizzard in England, just keep in mind that they don't have snow tires there nor snowplows at the Norwich Airport, which was where we were stuck. So we actually joy-rode with some other cash-paying people in a taxi to Heathrow, and on to the last plane out.
So we had been going to go from there to Amsterdam on KLM. So I needed to get my KLM ticket money back, and I was told by them the best way to do that is through Direct Messaging, not through some form you fill out because Direct Messaging is manned 24/7, or personed 24/7.
Because if there's a horrible thing happening, they need to be able to… So, instead of going on the online forum that was not going to get it back, I Direct Messaged Air Canada, and these charming people responded to me with many a smiling face and a thumbs up sign, and we drove out to Italy and somebody met us right there at Arrivals. There it was.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, Margaret, I think being the verified Twitter account of The Real Margaret Atwood may have had something to do with that.
Margaret Atwood: That's Instagram. On Twitter, I'm just Margaret Atwood.
Guy Kawasaki: You're not verified on Twitter?
Margaret Atwood: I am verified, but not as The Real Margaret-
Guy Kawasaki: Oh, oh. Yeah, yeah.
Margaret Atwood: No, I had to kick a couple of other Margaret Atwood’s off when I joined.
Guy Kawasaki: Oh, my…
Margaret Atwood: They were pretending to be me. They weren't being unpleasant, but they were being much more sentimental than I would be.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, by that stretch of the imagination, does fan fiction bother you, then?
Margaret Atwood: A lot of classic literature has been, in fact, fan fiction. So, Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida is fan fiction. And it was just, it was normal for hundreds of years, for people to redo earlier myths and stories. So no, it doesn't bother me at all. Because, let it rip.
Guy Kawasaki: Do you think that Shakespeare was a woman?
Margaret Atwood: Don't be silly.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, there is that theory.
Margaret Atwood: I don't think Shakespeare was Francis Bacon, and I don't think Shakespeare was the Earl of something or other. I think Shakespeare was exactly who Ben Jonson said he was. He was an actor, director, producer, who worked in early Elizabethan theater.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay, okay. Just checking. I saw in many of your interviews that you are a staunch agnostic. So, I--
Margaret Atwood: Strict. No, I'm a strict agnostic.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay, strict agnostic.
Margaret Atwood: What does that mean? What it means is that you cannot present as knowledge something that is actually believed, and that's what it means. Period.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. So with that, that eliminates a lot. What is your moral compass?
Margaret Atwood: My moral compass is a different thing. That's not a question of knowledge. That's a matter of how you were brought up. Okay. So, I was brought up by pretty-- I wouldn't say strict, but people who did believe that honesty was the best policy.
Guy Kawasaki: So it's your parental influence?
Margaret Atwood: Oh, I would say most people's is. Don't you?
Guy Kawasaki: Yes, yes. Absolutely.
Margaret Atwood: Yeah. I think there are two questions you should ask of any proposition or situation that comes before you of a problematic nature, and the first question is, "Is it true?" And if it is true, is it fair?
Guy Kawasaki: Fair, in the sense of...
Margaret Atwood: Just. Is it just?
Guy Kawasaki: Just. Okay.
Margaret Atwood: Is it fair?
Guy Kawasaki: I think by those two questions, we can answer almost any question. Right?
Margaret Atwood: We can certainly interrogate anything that comes before us.
Guy Kawasaki: Yes. Yes.
Margaret Atwood: So, if the answer to "Is it true?" is "No, it's not true," then you can also then say, "If it's not true, is it fair that people are acting as if it is true?" Is it fair that they're doing these things even though it's not true?
So, was it true that nineteen people were practicing witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts? No, it was not true. Was it fair that they got hanged? No, it was not fair.
Is it true that women are intellectually inferior by nature of their gender, to men, and capable of nothing but gibberish and can't reason? No, it is not true. Is it therefore fair that they should be treated that way? No, it is not fair.
Do you get the gist?
Guy Kawasaki: Yes.
Margaret Atwood: Is it true that all men are rapists? No, it is not true that all men are rapists. Is it fair to treat them as if they are? No, it is not fair.
Guy Kawasaki: Do you think that all men are flawed?
Margaret Atwood: All people are flawed.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. Why is it that--
Margaret Atwood: All people are flawed. Men are people; therefore all men are flawed, but similarly, all people are flawed. All women are people. Therefore, all women are flawed.
Guy Kawasaki: So, we're all flawed.
Margaret Atwood: Why is this a problem? Nobody's perfect.
Guy Kawasaki: Do you think that bad people create bad times, or bad times create bad people?
Margaret Atwood: Oh, it's a feedback loop. Some of both.
Guy Kawasaki: Do you see a way out of this mess that we're in?
Margaret Atwood: Of course.
Guy Kawasaki: And?
Margaret Atwood: Well, I'm thinking of doing something called The Blog of Hope. And on The Blog of Hope, I will put all of the hopeful things, and all of the ways out of the mess. Now, by mess, which particular bit of the mess are you talking about? Because it's multi-faceted mess.
Guy Kawasaki: Oh, misogynism, racism, women's rights being trampled on, anti-intellectualism, anti-science.
Margaret Atwood: Oh, that particular message.
Guy Kawasaki: The whole shooting match.
Margaret Atwood: Well, let's just cut to the chase and say unless we solve the warming and acidification of the oceans, none of that's going to matter.
Guy Kawasaki: True. Okay.
Margaret Atwood: So, that's one way out. We all die. Next question?
Guy Kawasaki: The ultimate solution, so to speak.
Margaret Atwood: The rest of it, let's just take the women's rights part-- I believe in working for structural change. And that is why we did the launch of The Testaments with an organization called Equality Now, and Equality Now works on changing laws that have to do with women and girls to make them fairer and more equitable.
So that's one of the ways that you address the mess. You can't legislate a change in people's opinions, but by changing laws to make them fairer, you give people the idea that it's more right than not right to treat people in this fair way.
Guy Kawasaki: I want to thank you, of course.
Margaret Atwood: Thank you!
Guy Kawasaki: I also want to reiterate my offer to somehow connect you and Jane Goodall because, my God, you two would just rock the earth and love each other.
Margaret Atwood: Yeah. We already love each other.
Guy Kawasaki: And my last statement to you, of course, besides my gratitude, is that I do believe that you are a Canadian who has the right to brag. Okay?
Margaret Atwood: Oh, you think so?
Guy Kawasaki: Absolutely.
Margaret Atwood: I may have the right, but I'm also quite prudent. I know that that would come at a cost.
This was a delightful interview to conduct. I love Atwood's message and appreciate her efforts to prevent the end of the world. Her latest book is The Testaments. It won Atwood her second Booker Award. Read it and spread its message to help prevent making America Gilead again.
This is Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. Mahalo to Amber MacArthur and Lucia Ceno for making this interview happen. No thanks to the people who prevented access to Atwood in Canada.
This podcast was produced by Jeff Sieh, and marketing goddess, Peg Fitzpatrick. Next week's guest is Wee Man, the star of Jackass, the MTV and movie series, and the only guest who questioned the existence of this podcast.
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This is Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. And now, here is Margaret Atwood.
Guy Kawasaki: Would your English teacher in high school say, "I knew Margaret Atwood would be this kind of writer, this kind of success"?
Guy Kawasaki: And would she say she knew?
Guy Kawasaki: Well, if you had known what you were getting into, would you have continued?
This is Remarkable People.
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Margaret Atwood on writing The Handmaid’s Tale, “If I was to create an imaginary garden I wanted the toads in it to be real. One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened in what James Joyce called the “nightmare” of history, nor any technology not already available. No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities. God is in the details, they say. So is the Devil.”