A Vintage Shorts “Short Story Month” Selection
The author of such towering novels as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, and Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood proves her imaginative prowess dazzles just as vividly in her short fiction. “Stone Mattress,” from her collection of the same name is witty, grotesque, and utterly hilarious—an exemplar of Atwood’s tremendous capacity for capturing our darkest impulses on the page.
Verna, aging widow, boards a cruise ship bound for the Arctic in search of her next husband. The last four had suffered regrettable tragedies and left Verna wickedly wealthy in their wake. But, instead of finding another wealthy suitor, Verna finds unwitting Bob, the first man to have ever wronged her. Single, reasonably near his grave, ordinary, and attracted to her like all the others—Bob is all-too-easy prey for Verna’s merciless revenge.
An ebook short.
Atwood, a bestselling master of fiction, delivers a stunning collection her first since 2006's Moral Disorder. Most of the nine stories feature women who have been wronged as girls but recover triumphantly as adults. Atwood brings her biting wit to bear on the battle of the sexes. The first three stories in the book "Alphinland," "Revenant," and "Dark Lady" are linked by a pretentious poet and his girlfriends, who best him professionally and personally as he ages into an impotent, disgruntled old man with a wife 30 years his junior: "He probably has more horns on his head as the bard would say than a hundred headed snail." Corpses are found, as in "The Freeze-Dried Groom" or not found, as in the title story, set on an Arctic cruise, in which a woman takes her revenge on the high school "Mr. Hearthrob, Mr. Senior Football Star, Mr. Astounding Catch... Mr. Shit" of 50 years before. Readers love Atwood's women, despite, or because of, who they are and what they do. Add in her wild imagination women conversing with dead husbands; genetic missteps that produce a girl with yellow eyes, pink teeth, and "long, dark chest hair"; and costumed "little people" who appear to an elderly nursing home resident and it's clear that this grande dame is at the top of her game.