NEW YORK -- Margaret Atwood and Laurie Anderson, strangers until now, covered a wide range of topics in their first public conversation.
Starting with their ages.
“How old are you?" the 80-year-old Atwood, best known for the novel “The Handmaid's Tale,” asked Anderson, the celebrated multimedia artist, and eight years Atwood's junior. Once established that both grew up in the post -World War II era, they discussed Girls Scouts, cheerleading, living in a nuclear world and the hopes and obstacles for women in the arts.
“I'm from Canada,” Atwood said. In the 1940s and 1950s, when she was coming of age, “there weren't any other artists,” man or woman and best option for a Canadian was moving elsewhere.
Anderson, a native of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, who moved to New York in her 20s, remembered a more open-ended time when she and fellow artists and bohemians supported each other.
“We didn't think about women and men,” Anderson said, and “We never thought we'd make a living.”
Atwood and Anderson spoke Monday night in Manhattan before more than 100 people at the annual Chairman's Evening for the MacDowell artist colony, where creative people from different fields routinely interact. Previous pairings have included Martin Scorsese and Lin Manuel-Miranda and Lena Dunham and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The conversation was moderated by MacDowell chairman Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist.