The Caliban Rap

October 14, 2016

You’d think that after some, ahem, few decades in publishing, literary events might be a bit coals to Newcastle for some of us. Not a bit of it; last Thursday my friend and colleague Marion Donaldson and I stepped all the way over Blackfriars Bridge to the South Bank to see Margaret Atwood in conversation with Erica Wagner, just for fun.

In a stroke of sheer inspiration, the London Literary Festival team had a background stage visual of the words from Hogarth’s edition of HAG-SEED floating across a screen, morphing into different shapes, words becoming pictures then words once more, mesmerising in itself. The main concert hall at the Royal Festival Hall is a big venue, and my goodness, it was full. The moment Margaret Atwood stepped onto the stage, I could see why: her dazzling, golden jacket, her sparkling silver slippers, and as it transpired, her innate ability to answer every single question with humour, intelligence and wisdom. She spoke of prisons, of Shakespeare, of forgiveness, of graphic novels, of feminism and the beauty of language. She commented wryly that Caliban had ‘father issues’. And then she rapped. Yes! Rapped! A Caliban rap that takes The Tempest to altogether another level. I read a review that said it was the only flat moment in the book. Maybe you have to hear Atwood perform, because it was so full of energy and rhythm that the audience whooped at the end. I can’t think of another writer who engages in this way, who never seems to tire of trying out new things. Margaret Atwood, you are an inspiration. May you write, and rap on, forever.

– Imogen Taylor, Publishing Director

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