How The Handmaid’s Tale turned Margaret Atwood into an international superstar

In 1986, Atwood hit New York City to promote her famous dystopian novel, and Chatelaine tagged along. Read our vintage profile below.

Chatelaine: Margaret Atwood promotes The Handmaid's Tale in 1986

The Handmaid’s Tale is set to be the biggest TV premiere of the year, airing in the US on April 26 and in Canada on April 30. But long before Elizabeth Moss donned a red habit and the Internet lost its mind over Margaret Atwood’s prescience, the book was burning up bestseller lists, transforming Atwood from a Canadian star into an international one. Chatelaine writer Robert Collison followed the author on a New York City press tour for the book, as she taped a radio promo, sparred with Norman Mailer (over the lack of female writers represented at a PEN conference he organized) and partied with the city’s literary types. Along the way, Collison marvelled at her “defiant WASPness,” her “steel trap mind” and her ability to silence a room just by entering it. The same things can be said of Atwood 31 years later. ATWOOD1



September 18, 2023 update: This post has been updated with the correct spelling of Robert Collison’s last name. Chatelaine regrets this error.

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