Clink of the Literary Titans

A day after Wayson Choy—who I thought was a shoo-in—found out he’d have to be content with only the “2004 Giller Shortlist” stickers on his book, I saw in him in the local Book City book store. The trooper was there signing books. And who should come in after for her own book signing? None other than the Queen of CanLit, Peggy Atwood. The literary powerhouse comes in quite a humble, bent, old-lady frame. She also comes complete with a pretty, young handler who does things like go up to the Book City staff and announce that Margaret Atwood is here for her book signing.

“Margaret Atwood is here. Sorry we’re late, but I didn’t have a cell phone to call you to let you know,” said the handler.

“That’s OK. Wayson Choy is still signing his books,” said the Book City staffer.

“That’s fine. We’ll wait.”

“You can wait near the signing table if you want.”

“Right,” said the handler, not really committing to the suggestion or just not really listening. In Canadian-ese, her tone could have been interpreted as a passive aggressive “Uh, you’re kidding right?”

“I mean, that is, if it’s not a problem. She wouldn’t mind?” said the staffer.

“Oh, no. Not at all.”

“Oh, good. Because I thought there was something between—”

“No. No. Well, not that I know of.”

The handler’s laugh prompted a matching one from the staffer. Imagine. A literary spat between the two writers!

The authors met near the end of the fiction wall. Their attention was on the book tables, as if they were looking for bargins. Margaret had a small something with “Yoga” written on it in big letters. Wayson had a glossy coffee-table book entitled “Tools.”

After the initial “hello’s” were finished, they continued browsing their separate ways.

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