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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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Top Customer Reviews
I would not recommend this as an introduction to Atwood - a first time reader would probably be better suited to reading one of her novels such as The Blind Assassin or The Handmaid's Tale first. But I think that for readers that have encountered Atwood before, this collection will give you an insight into a fascinating and wryly humourous writer.
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.
This compilation of Atwood's shortest stories and musings include the following:
- Murder in the Darl
- Bad News
- Unpopular Girls
- The Little Red Hen Tells All
- Gertrude Talks Back
- There Was Once
- Women's Novels
- The Boys' Own Annual
- Stump Hunting
- Making a Man
- Men at Sea
- Happy Endings
- Let Us Now Praise Stupid Women
- The Victory Burlesk
- The Female Body
- Liking Men
- In Love with Raymond Chandler
- Simple Murders
- Alien Territory
- My Life as a Bat
- Poppies: Three Variations
- The Page
- An Angel
- Third Handed
- Death Scenes
- We Want It All
- Dance of the Lepers
- Good Bones
These stories are all fairly short, no more than a few pages each, and many are less stories than simply musings on the part of the author. Each one is a little snippet of thought, with a larger story behind it that exists only in the author's mind. For instance, "Gertrude Talks Back", a quick short speech where Hamlet's mother responds to his famous berating speech and confesses proudly that it was she who killed Claudius. Behind the speech lies an unwritten story with a stronger Gertrude, one who takes command of her own destiny rather than simply playing the passive roles of widow, wife, and mother.
The only real drawback to this compilation is that the stories are almost too short, too unpolished. The idea behind each is compelling, but it is disappointing that the idea wasn't able to blossom into a full story, or even a whole novel. Of course, lots of ideas peter out with nothing ever coming of them, and there's no shame in publishing these failed musings to inspire others, but it is a bit sad that this is as far as these stories ever got.
~ Ana Mardoll