The Tent by Margaret Atwood

The blurb by The Seattle Times on the back of this book said it best: “When Margaret Atwood is good, she’s very good. And when she’s barbed, she’s better.”

A collection of impossibly short stories (a few of them are less than a page long) written as only Margaret Atwood can write them, and accompanied by her own illustrations. This is a good quick read – since the stories are all so short, I was able to finish the whole collection in about half an hour. Here’s a sample of some of the titles: “It’s Not Easy Being Half-Divine”, “Encouraging the Young”, “Our Cat Enters Heaven”, “Three Novels I Won’t Write Soon”, and “But It Could Still”.

Here’s two of my favorite parts.
First, from “Take Charge”:
“-Sir, their diabolical worm virus has infected our missile command system. It’s eating the software like candy.
-Don’t just lounge there, you dickhead! Get going with the firewalls, or whatever you use.
-Sir, I’m a screen monitor, not a troubleshooter.
-Shit in a bucket, what do they think we’re running here, a beauty parlor? If you can’t do it, where’s the nerdy spot-faced geek who can?
-Sir, it was him wrote the virus. He was not a team player, Sir. The missiles have already launched and they’re heading straight for us.
-No help for it, I’ll have to do it myself. Hand me that sledgehammer.
-Sir, we’ve got sixty seconds.
-Well do the best you can.”

From “Orphan Stories”:
“Now the letters will arrive, from orphans. How could you treat orphanhood so lightly! they will say. You don’t understand what it’s like to be an orphan. You are the sort of person who jeers at those with no legs. You are frivilous and cruel. You are harsh.
Ah yes, dear orphans. I can see how you would feel that way. But to notice is not to disparage. All observations of life are harsh, because life is. I lament that fact, but I cannot change it.
(And consider: It is loss to which everything flows, absence in which everything flowers. It is you, not we, who have always been the children of the gods.)”

Verdict: five out of five stars


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