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Henighan on the LongPen

Margaret Atwood’s LongPen is set to wow crowds at BookExpo America in a couple of weeks, but at least one commentator is unconvinced of its appeal.

Author Stephen Henighan attended the failed test signing at the Bookshelf in Guelph in early March, and was struck by the low turnout for an event that was billed as historic. “The forty numbered tickets designated for the general public were not exhausted at the time the event was called off,” Henighan writes in his column in Geist magazine. “If Margaret Atwood came to Guelph in person, The Bookshelf could not contain the crowd. The reading would have to be held in the church across the street and the organizers could charge admission and still fill the building. (This happened when Ann-Marie MacDonald came to Guelph.)”

Provocatively, if dubiously, Henighan also draws some parallels between Atwood’s entrepreneurship, her writing, and her very culture. “By enshrining the author as a remote talking head, [the LongPen] harks back to an older vision of the writer as inaccessible authority figure,” he writes. “The device’s conception is counterintuitive to the logic of virtual culture. LongPen recapitulates the yearning for distance rather than engagement, ironic detachment rather than emotional involvement, that characterizes Atwood’s fiction; it evokes the diffidence of traditional southern Ontario WASP culture.”

Related links:
Click here for Stephen Henighan’s Geist column on the LongPen