TORONTO - Canadian author Margaret Atwood says becoming the face of a new stamp has made her the envy of all of her friends, even though some may be dismayed that she's alive to accept the honour.
Canada Post launched a commemorative stamp celebrating the literary legend at a Toronto event on Thursday, which included speeches by filmmaker Sarah Polley and activist Ceta Ramkhalawansingh.
The stamp features a black-and-white photo of Atwood resting a hand on her face, with her famous line "a word after a word after a word is power" repeated in the background.
Canada Post's "Official First Day Cover" for the stamp is emblazoned with a 1975 sketch by Atwood titled "Neither fish nor flesh," as well as the silhouette of a raven in a nod to her passion for birds.
"Being on a stamp is an unexpected honour, so unexpected that it has already caused a rash of stamp envy in my peer group," Atwood, 82, told the crowd at the Toronto Reference Library.
"The first phone call I received on this subject was from a friend of my age — 1,002 — who exclaimed with a shocked horror that was only partly jocular, 'but you're not even dead yet.'"
Atwood pointed out that plenty of living luminaries are featured on Canadian postage, most notably the Queen, but said she doubted that fact would do much to allay the sentiment that her postal honours should have been issued posthumously.
"My lack of deadness is just the latest outrage I have perpetrated on the right thinking Canadian public," she joked. "My country is very good at sticking pins into heads that it deems to have become too swelled up. Be prepared for a bunch of jokes about licking and sticking. Not to mention cancellation."
But even this epistolary envy couldn't temper Atwood's excitement as a lifelong philatelist. As a child, Atwood said, she amassed a sizeable stamp collection that helped her discover faraway places and figures, including Iceland, volcanoes and tyrannical dictators.
"It's a great honour to find oneself on a stamp, especially if one has been a small child given to fishing his envelopes out of wastepaper baskets in order to remove the stamps from them," she said.
"Perhaps in the future, some young person will find my head in a wastepaper basket and cut it out and save it in a stamp album."
One of Canada's most prolific and decorated writers, Atwood's bibliography spans more than 50 books of poetry, fiction, criticism, essays and graphic novels.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2021.