Margaret Atwood’s brain just doesn’t work like anyone else’s, to the everlasting benefit of all her readers. In this selection of short stories she explores, variously–
*herself communing with George Orwell through a snoring medium (a little heartbreaking, I found this one)
*an alien member of an intergalactic-crises aid package who is also an out of work actor (and vaguely an octopus, but, you know, just go with that) who is being paid to keep us locals calm inside by telling us a fairy tale while the rest of his team, I guess, cleans up Earth outside (“This simultaneous translation device I have been issued is not the best quality. As we have already experienced together, you do not understand my jokes. But as you say, half an oblong wheat-flour product is better than none.”). Caveat lector, said fairy tale is much more Brothers Grimm than Disney.
*Hypatia’s eyewitness account of her death by clamshell (“Would I have been happier if I’d never been a respected public figure, if I’d followed the standard path for a woman then–got married, had children?…I would probably not have ended up as a butchers’ workout, but you never know. Many obscure women have been done to death merely for existing…I try to look on the bright side: I did not have to endure the indignities of extreme old age.”)
*a future history of, again, a plague-ridden Earth where the women have undertaken to match “clean” brides and grooms to perpetuate the race (Atwood channelling Sheri Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country here)
*a really weird, even for Atwood, account of the soul of a snail occupying the body of a bank teller. The snail is not at all happy about it (“There must be a purpose. I must be learning something. I can’t believe this is all random.”)
and more, including an interrupted series of stories set in the world of happy couple Nell and Tig, who says “We had a good long run. You’ll be fine.”
Atwood giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other. And on that happy note, exeunt.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.