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Good Bones and Simple Murders Hardcover – November 6, 2001
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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.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Good Bones and Simple Murders is a reprint combining two earlier volumes -- Good Bones and Murder in the Dark. It’s primarily a collection of short-short stories that often read more like scene sketches and fragments. It’s most similar to 2006’s The Tent, and between the two, The Tent is the better standalone volume. Good Bones is enjoyable, but not essential. It is primarily of interest to Atwood completionists -- much of the fun here is seeing what might be the genesis of some ideas that were later developed and fleshed out in lengthier, weightier works.
If you’re new to Margaret Atwood and looking for an entry point into her other books after reading The Handmaid’s Tale, I’d look elsewhere before coming here. If you already have read a good sampling of others and are looking to expand your collection, or are curious about what it might feel like taking a peek inside of Atwood’s notebooks, then there’s something here for you. There’s nothing inside that is mandatory reading, but it is, after all, Margaret Atwood -- she’s never written anything bad.
Many of the pieces are hit and miss; my favorites are the scifi stories that hinge on an environmental or animal-friendly theme:
- "Cold-Blooded" - An alien race of matriarchal moth people visit planet earth - or as they call it, "The Planet of the Moths," a nickname owing to the fact that their moth cousins outnumber us by billions - and find humans sorely lacking in both culture and intelligence;
- "My Life As a Bat" - A series of reflections on the narrator's past life as a bat, including a disturbing (and, as it just so happens, true) anecdote about WWII-era experiments in which bats were made into unwitting suicide bombers;
- "Hardball" - A piece of dystopian speculative fiction in which humans, having decimated their environment, have retreated to live under a giant dome. Since space is limited, the population must be kept in check: for every birth, one person is chosen to die via a lottery. Care to guess what becomes of the remains?
Also enjoyable are those stories which reimagine classic literature: "Gertrude Talks Back" gives voice to Hamlet's long-suffering mother, and "Unpopular Gals" and "Let Us Now Praise Stupid Women" celebrates those villains and "airheads" without which fairy tales would not exist.
While at times difficult to read, "Liking Men" is another standout; this is the piece that deals with sexual assault, vis à vis a woman's journey back to coping with - and even loving - men (or rather, one man in particular) again after her rape.
A must for fans of Margaret Atwood!
(Is there a nickname for us, like HDM's Sraffies? Atwolytes, maybe? Mad Adams and Angry Eves?)
PS - Dear Margaret: Fishes are indeed animals. Can we please stop pretending otherwise? xoxo - A vegan feminist fan.
Most recent customer reviews
This compilation of Atwood's shortest stories and musings include the following:
- Murder in the Darl
- Bad...Read more