The Tent

by Margaret Atwood
ISBN: 1400097010

I’ll start with a confession: I haven’t read Margaret Atwood before. It seems to me I should have; people have been telling me for years she’s smart and I’d like her. The Handmaid’s Tale was everywhere for so long that it became one of those books everyone read, so it’s probably willful perversity on my part to not have read it.

My plan was not to start reading her now, but that is the wonder of having a large and shared unread book stack — I was looking for the next thing to read, and there it was. I’m thankful I found it: the short (sometimes very short) stories in The Tent are as sharp and glittering as smashed glass.

Atwood knows her game, well, and she lets readers know that at the outset, in “Life Stories”:

I’m working on my own life story. I don’t mean I’m putting it together; no, I’m taking it apart. It’s mostly a question of editing. If you’d wanted the narrative line you should have asked earlier, when I still knew everything and was more than willing to tell. That was before I discovered the virtues of scissors, the virtues of matches.

Reading this book, I felt at times as if I’d walked in after the movie started. I suppose that is because I know Atwood has this enormous body of work, and suspect she’s making sly references to it, but since I’m not familiar with it, I’m missing out. It’s bit unsettling, but not necessarily unpleasant. I suspect I’ll finally get around to reading more of her work now. Recommended.

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