Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

I *love* Margaret Atwood’s writing, pre-ordered this one and received it on publication day, but the reviews were such that I only got around to reading it last month.

It’s a collection of nine short stories.  The first three are linked, about ageing writers/artists thinking about how they ended up where they are and examining bad behaviour from back in the 60s and 70s.  It’s low-key stuff, but really funny.  The third, Dark Lady, features a pair of characters with the fewest redeeming features ever committed to paper.

Lusus Naturae is a good old-fashioned gothic creature feature.  I liked it a lot.

In the Freeze-Dried Groom a shady antiques dealer meets his match when he bids on one storage locker too many.  Also fab.

I Dream of  Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth revisits characters from my favourite Atwood novel, The Robber Bride.  Enjoyable, yes, but I’m not sure how necessary it is to the canon.

The Dead Hand Loves you is also about ageing writers and a pact they made back in the 60s finally coming unravelled.  It’s worth noting that the successful writer from this, as well as the one from the first three stories, are writers of genre (horror here and fantasy earlier) that the rest of their circle look down on.  It’s clear that Atwood thinks they’re the chumps, not the successful genre authors.  I liked it, but mostly got excited because of the reference to the goth girls who idolise the horror writer.  “Hey, Margaret Atwood knows about goths”.  And then I realised she lives in the Annex so, duh.

Stone Mattress is about revenge served up cold, in every sense of the word.  This is the story that I loved.

Torching the Dusties is a near-future number where a radical group of young people have decided that old people have taken too many of the world’s resources for too long and got really militant about it.  Scary and hilarious all at once.

This collection starts out less than grippingly, but overall is absolutely worth your time.


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