The Handmaid's Tale , The Blind Assassin

The Tent

Margaret Atwood, Author
Margaret Atwood, Author . Doubleday/Talese $18 (158p) ISBN 978-0-385-51668-6
Reviewed on: 09/19/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006

Biting anger, humor and interest in the fantastic have marked inimitable Atwood works like The Handmaid's Tale , The Blind Assassin and Oryx and Crake . In this odd set of terse, mostly prose ripostes, Atwood takes stock of life and career—"this graphomania in a flimsy cave"—and finds both come up short. Staged from behind screens of updated fables and myths ("Salome Was a Dancer" begins "Salome went after the Religious Studies teacher"), the pieces rage icily against the constraints of gender, age (witheringly: "I have decided to encourage the young"), fame and even "Voice": "What people saw was me. What I saw was my voice, ballooning out in front of me like the translucent green membrane of a frog in full trill." Along with a few poems and childlike line drawings, what keeps this collection of 30-odd fictions from being a set of rants is the offhanded intimacy and acerbic self-knowledge with which Atwood delivers them: "The person you have in mind is lost. That's the picture I'm getting." Threaded throughout are dead-on asides on the tyrannies of time and the limits of truth telling in society, so that when Hoggy Groggy hires Foxy Loxy to silence Chicken Little forever, there is no doubt with whom the author's sympathies lie. (Jan. 10)

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