January 27, 2014
Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood take to Google Hangout for an event
by Nick Davies
Last week, Margaret Atwood was scheduled to appear at Symphony Space in New York to host a celebration of Alice Munro’s receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature. Munro hasn’t made many appearances since she was announced the winner, and even declined to attend the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm, but she agreed to do this New York appearance remotely, via streaming video from her home in British Columbia, with Atwood acting as an intermediary in person. When a snowstorm prevented Atwood from traveling to New York, though, she simply joined her friend Munro in the Google Hangout from Toronto, with both parties beamed into the Upper West Side theater.
The Hangout isn’t without its technical difficulties, as you can see below; there are hiccups when Atwood’s video feed in particular drops out now and then. But the resulting video has the feel of joining a conversation between two good friends (complete with a photo of both of them behind Munro).
It’s not quite eavesdropping on a private chat — Atwood’s questions are clearly geared towards the audience — but there’s a warm familiarity as they share self-deprecating jokes and banter over character likability and hate mail; and Munro gets a bit emotional talking about the warm reception she’s received after winning the Nobel Prize.
The evening included several live, in-person speakers as well. John Williams writes for the New York Times that Times writer Charles McGrath introduced the Munro/Atwood video chat, and actresses Amy Ryan and Holly Hunter each did a reading of one of Munro’s stories.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.