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Stone Mattress: Nine Wicked Tales Paperback – June 23, 2015
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"The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, The Lying Game. Pre-order today
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014: “Stop trying to pimp me out to all these groupies,” a famous author and infamous cad utters in “Revenant,” one of three cleverly interconnected tales that begin Margaret Atwood’s superbly sardonic Stone Mattress. He is referring to an impending visit from an infatuated graduate student who is supposedly writing a thesis about his sonnets…which aren’t really sonnets (long story). Naveena—her name, he derisively but accurately points out, “sounds like cheese food slices. Or better—like a hair-removal cream”—is insufferable enough to be sure. The depiction makes yours truly nervous to be writing this review, but it’s all part of the fun, and these tales are fun, which is odd considering the sinister current that runs through many of them. But it’s as if the reader is privy to some sort of inside joke. This is especially evident in “The Dead Hand Loves You,” when Atwood playfully skewers the horror genre then gleefully indulges in it, and the ominously tongue-in-cheek “Torching the Dusties.” Fans of Margaret Atwood will certainly delight in this collection. But beware, the Stone Mattress will make groupies of old and new readers alike. –Erin Kodicek--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Eclectic, funny, vibrant, terrifying, beautiful, and utterly delightful.” —The Boston Globe
“A tour de force of wit, style, and discernment.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“Astonishing. . . . Powerful. . . . I loved these strange, sharp and wild stories.” —Meg Wolitzer, NPR
“Pure, simple and stunning. . . . Endearing, subtle, quite brilliant.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Powerful. . . . Witty and frequently biting, Stone Mattress is keen to the ways in which we choose, all our lives, to love and to hurt—and in Atwood’s world these two actions are always choices, creating consequences for which we will one day be held to account.” —The New York Times Book Review
“[These] stories have the caustic wit and giddy deviance . . . along with the probing interiority and flinty insights of Atwood’s novels.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Danc[es] over the dark swamps of Horror on the wings of satirical wit. . . . Look at these tales . . . as eight icily refreshing arsenic Popsicles followed by a baked Alaska laced with anthrax, all served with impeccable style and aplomb. Enjoy!” —Ursula K. Le Guin, Financial Times
“Stylish, acerbic and wickedly funny. . . . With wit, sympathy and precision, Atwood draws readers into a reflective frame of mind.” —The Miami Herald
“The collection is surprisingly unsettling, gripping and at once laugh-out-loud hilarious. It attains its laudable goal: Myths last over time, and the stories in this book have that very quality. They are timeless, memorable and quite simply fun.” —Chicago Tribune
“Absorbing. . . . Impressive. . . . Stone mattresses make for restless sleep, but in this elegant collection, everyone expresses that restlessness differently.” —The A.V. Club
“Powerful. . . . Extraordinary. . . . Realism and ridiculousness, play and deadly seriousness, are held in fine balance throughout.” —The Guardian (London)
“Wise and witty. . . . Atwood writes essentially intellectual fiction, spryly coiled around solid themes, yet borrowing the amusements of pulp genres, from science fiction to horror.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Compelling. . . . Astonishing. . . . Atwood illuminates heavy themes with a lightness of touch, giving insight not only into the nature of stone but the trials and tribulations of flesh and blood.” —The Observer (London)
“A collection rich in sly humour and pulpy thrills.” —The Telegraph (London)
“This collection of short stories is charged with a delightful cheekiness, as well as a full awareness of the subjectivity of notions of justice and value. . . . Witty, weird, chirpily irreverent, somewhat hard-hearted, and hugely insightful.” —The Independent (London)
“[Atwood’s] ability to surprise and her sparkling language are on full display. . . . Stone Mattress not only showcases its author’s talents at their most refined, it also affords a glimpse behind the curtain to the woman working the megaphone.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Wickedly funny, mordantly observed ruminations on how the sexes interact. . . . With Stone Mattress, Atwood brilliantly returns to her literary roots as a deliciously funny observer of the human comedy.” —The Toronto Star
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Top customer reviews
The first three stories are linked by references to Alphinland, a fantasy series written by one of the main characters. I am deeply tempted to bring Atwood herself into this character given the white haired appearance of both the author and the character. Added to this is the tendency of Margaret to write fantasy novels, the temptation is deep. I loved the character, Constance, with her affection of her own work and her firm lack of pretense in her fame. She is beautifully drawn in her older years as a woman who maintains her past within her. Her view of the world is wry and literate. I love her take on the fussings of her adult children. Her interaction with her past, which is further revealed in the other two stories, is familiar and dear to aging children who read her. As for the young, it is beguiling to see the future does not obliterate the soul as the body ages.
Her sense of humor is extended in the other tales, and I found bits in all of them to kindle a memory or to enjoy the skillful nailing of a nebulous thought. After all, isn't that one of the functions of fiction but to place the unsayable into words that one can carry home?
This is a (not surprisingly) well-written collection of stories which definitely intrigued me. In fact, there were several stories I wish ran even longer, because I so enjoyed the characters and wanted to know more about what happened to them when the stories ended.
The stories in Stone Mattress: Nine Tales are mostly about reasonably normal people dealing with unusual or emotionally challenging circumstances. My favorites included: "The Dead Hand Loves You," in which the author of a horror masterpiece, written to get him out of debt more than anything else, reflects on the circumstances in which he created the book, and the people who inspired him and fired his resentment; "Torching the Dusties," where an elderly woman in an assisted living facility is struggling both with the visions of little people she keeps seeing and the fact that an activist group has stormed her facility, threatening to burn it down and kill all the residents; "The Freeze-Dried Groom," about an antique dealer and thief who finds more than he bargained for when he bids on an unclaimed storage unit; and the title story, in which a woman rights a long-festering wrong, on an Arctic cruise, of all places. I also really enjoyed the trio of linked stories, "Alphinland," "Revenant," and "Dark Lady," which dealt with two writers battling the challenges of growing old and reflecting on their work, and a woman who once came between them.
I felt Atwood was at her best in this collection when her stories, dark as they may be, were slightly more grounded in reality than those which dealt with more fantastical subjects. I really enjoyed her writing, and reading this definitely has me thinking I'll need to read more of her books.
But, in the end, what makes this book readable, would be the way it paints our elders. Quite often we do not take the time to understand the generations that has gone before us. How often do you read of the struggels of an eighty-year old, written in a way one can identify with? I would recommend this to those who wish to see how the other part of our population lives, not just people in their twenties. And it's easily readable, and quite interesting.
The verdict might be out in Hollywood, but Atwood has brought these spring chickens alive on the page. Her nine tales (she differentiates these from stories, emphasizing their wonder) are sprinkled with color, poet's word choice, and laugh-out-loud pregnant moments so alive you'd think you're in the womb.
Usually, I'm not a fan of stories that are too fanciful, and I hadn't revisited Atwood since The Handmaid's Tale was mandatory reading in high school. So one star deducted merely because personal taste (laziness?): the mental effort I had to exert to open its cover, reach for my dictionary and delve into each separate world.
In the end, though, this book made me feel like I was visiting my hilariously witty grandparents at their retirement home. I have to gather the energy to hop off the couch and drive over. Once there, I'm so glad I came.
Most recent customer reviews
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