Margaret Atwood and the Labour of Literary Celebrity

Margaret Atwood and the Labour of Literary Celebrity

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By Lorraine York
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2013
World Rights
232 Pages 2 Images
ISBN 9781442614239
Published May 2013
Online discount: 15%
 $30.95    $26.31
ISBN 9781442646131
Published Jun 2013
Online discount: 25%
 $72.00    $54.00
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442664944
Published May 2013
Online discount: 26%
Full purchase $30.95

For every famous author there is a score of individuals working behind the scenes to promote and maintain her celebrity status. This timely and thoughtful book considers the particular case of internationally renowned writer Margaret Atwood and the active agents working in concert with her, including her assistants and office staff, her publicists, her literary agents, and her editors. Lorraine York explores the ways in which the careers of famous writers are managed and maintained and the extent to which literary celebrity creates a constant tension in these writers’ lives between the need of solitude for creative purposes and the give-and-take of the business of being a writer of significant public stature.

Making extensive use of unpublished material in the Margaret Atwood Papers at the University of Toronto, York demonstrates the extent to which celebrity writers must embrace and protect themselves from the demands of the literary world, including by participating in – or even inventing – new forms of technology that facilitate communication from a slight remove. This informative study calls overdue attention to the ways in which literary celebrity is the result not only of a writer’s creativity and hard work, but also of an ongoing collaborative effort among professionals to help maintain the writer’s place in the public eye.

Lorraine York is the Senator William McMaster Chair in Canadian Literature and Culture and a professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University.


Introduction: The Dead Moose and the Publishing Pie

  1. “You Are A Necessity of Life”: Atwood and Literary Agency
  2. “Who’s the Very Best at Spellin’?”:  Editing Margaret Atwood
  3. Keeping O.W. Toad Hopping Along: The Atwood Office
  4. @MargaretAtwood: Interactive Media and the Management of Literary Celebrity
  5. “The Cloak of Visibility”: Art and Industry in the Works of Margaret Atwood

Postscript: Margaret Atwood for Mayor? Literary Celebrity in the Civic Realm



Margaret Atwood and the Labour of Literary Celebrity is a ground-breaking analysis of the literary celebrity of  Canada’s most visible and internationally recognized author. Offering a great deal of insight into the workings of Atwood’s career, Lorraine York does a brilliant job tracing the relationship between Atwood as a working writer, embedded in a network of working relationships, and Atwood as celebrity icon. This engaging, compelling study is of enormous importance to literary scholars.’

Gillian Roberts, Department of American and Canadian Studies, University of Nottingham

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading this important and splendid book. No other project offers the kind of detailed, focused analysis of the industrial structure of authorship, literary agency, and editing that Lorraine York presents here: her argument takes a genuinely new direction that will certainly be influential. The book is excellently written, accessible, and engaging.”

Faye Hammill, School of Humanities, University of Strathclyde

“For anyone who labours under the illusion that literary celebrity is an individual endeavour, York throws back the curtain to display the inner workings and many people involved in ‘the sizeable task of running the day-to-day business of being Margaret Atwood.’”

Steven W. Beattie, Reviews Editor, Quill & Quire

‘This is a fascinating, well researched examination of Atwood’s public literary career… This book provides an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at Atwood’s career…. Highly recommended.’

A.M. Laflen, Choice Magazine; vol 51:05:14

‘York’s desire to expose and explore the underside of fame is commendable (and in literary context, novel).’

Tayt Harlin, TLS, March 7, 2014

Gabrielle Roy Prize awarded by Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures (Canada) - Short-listed in 2014