"The freezing rain sifts down, handfuls of shining rice thrown by some unseen celebrant."
A collection of highly imaginative short pieces that speak to our times with deadly accuracy. Vintage Atwood creativity, intelligence, and humor: think Alias Grace.
Margaret Atwood turns to short fiction for the first time since her 2006 collection, Moral Disorder, with nine tales of acute psychological insight and turbulent relationships bringing to mind her award-winning 1996 novel, Alias Grace. A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband in "Alphinland," the first of three loosely linked stories about the romantic geometries of a group of writers and artists. In "The Freeze-Dried Bridegroom," a man who bids on an auctioned storage space has a surprise. In "Lusus Naturae," a woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. In "Torching the Dusties," an elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. And in "Stone Mattress," a long-ago crime is avenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite. In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game.
Atwood has my heart, she is fast becoming one of my favorite writers. Remember how I said short stories aren't usually my thing? Atwood can give me short stories ANYDAY and I'd gobble them up. This grouping was surprisingly dark and gothic which always tickle my fancy. I'm also very partial to story collections that have central themes and this one had two big, fat themes; mortality and revenge. Both of those topics can be seductive and macabre at the same time. The first three stories relate by interconnecting characters, each one centralizing around the idea of growing older and leaving behind (or NOT leaving behind) old grudges. I loved how most of collection revolved around Authors, and I wonder if any of the stories speak a little about Atwood on a personal level.
I have my favorites from this collections, like the story of an uprising younger generation bent on "taking care" of the elderly, and by "taking care" I don't mean feeding, clothing and sheltering them. The idea is this: the next generation of kids will hate us for what we've done to the world and the state we have left it in. Surprisingly, this exact theme is touched upon in David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks which I was reading consecutively. Is this something we should be worried about? Apparently some of the great minds in literature have been tossing around this theme and maybe we should pay a little more attention to it?!
I have to commend Atwood for having given me a story collection to read that had me interested throughout the entire thing. Often, I find myself wondering if I should 'skip' to the next story (if I'm not quite fancying the one I'm reading). I NEVER did that with Stone Mattress, each story had me enchanted enough to keep my interest. I did have favorites but I can honestly say that I didn't dislike/hate any of them. I found something useful and interesting with every single one. I would highly recommend this collection to anyone who loves short stories and especially to those skeptics, this one might change your mind.
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