This handsome volume combines two of Margaret Atwood's most playful books--Good Bones and Murder in the Dark--resulting in an athletically clever series of tiny fictions, prose poems, and essays that, in small, witty steps, deconstruct everything from sexual politics to the very act of writing itself. Ranging from a tongue-in-cheek appreciation of "Women's Novels" and an embittered, self-sacrificing confessional by Chicken Little to a powerful series of variations on John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields," Good Bones and Simple Murders will surprise casual Atwood fans who are accustomed to the broad intensity of her novels or the seriousness of much of her poetry.
Many of the weaker pieces in this collection now feel dated, but this is hardly Atwood's fault; scores of lesser writers worked the brief essay-fiction to death in the late '90s, but Good Bones and Simple Murders is the real thing. Atwood is blessed with the linguistic gifts necessary to make this kind of writing memorable and a keen intelligence that often gives the stories a devastating relevance. These stories are too quirky to be a useful introduction to Atwood's works, but they are nonetheless likely to delight both fans and dabblers. --Jack Illingworth
From Publishers Weekly
If Atwood keeps a journal, perhaps some of the brief selections in this slender volume-postmodern fairy tales, caustic fables, inspired parodies, witty monologues-come from that source. The 35 entries offer a sometimes whimsical, sometimes sardonic view of the injustices of life and the battles of the sexes. Such updated fairy tales as "The Little Red Hen Tells All" (she's a victim of male chauvinism) and "Making a Man" (the Gingerbread man is the prototype) are seen with a cynical eye and told in pungent vernacular. "Gertrude Talks Back" is a monologue by Hamlet's mother, a randy woman ready for a roll in the hay, who is exasperated with her whiny, censorious teenage son. Several pieces feature women with diabolical intentions-witches, malevolent goddesses, etc. There are science fiction scenarios, anthropomorphic confessionals ("My Life as a Bat") and an indictment of overly aggressive women that out-Weldons Fay Weldon. While each of these entries is clever and sharply honed, readers will enjoy dipping into them selectively; a sustained reading may call up an excess of bile. Atwood has provided striking black-and-white illustrations.
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