Booked Up

The Enduring Artistry of Margaret Atwood

If you’ve never read her, Atwood’s wonderful new book of short stories is a great place to start.

By - Nov 21st, 2014 04:30 pm
Margaret Atwood's Stone Mattress: Nine Tales

Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress: Nine Tales

This week’s abbreviated recommendation is a book of short stories by a master of the genre. Although Margaret Atwood is justly lauded for her novels, (TheHandmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, et al.) she truly excels at the simple tale. Stone Mattress: Nine Tales is a long-anticipated compilation of her recent short fiction and it is well worth the wait.

The title story was begun on an arctic expedition and tells the intriguing case of an almost perfect murder. It was first published in The New Yorker. Lusus Naturae was commissioned by Michael Chabon for an anthology of strange tales. It lives up to its billing. In I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth, Ms. Atwood takes characters from her novel, The Robber Bride, and sends them in a new direction. But my personal favorite here is Alphinland, the beautiful and poignant story of a widow haunted by her husband’s ghost and drawn into the fantasy kingdom she created long ago.

One of the joys of reading living writers over time comes in watching them develop, mature, and even grow old. Ms. Atwood has been a constant companion since I picked up her first novel in the 1970’s. Her gifts have always been prodigious, but like fine wine, they have mellowed and become more complex. If you haven’t Margaret Atwood yet, The Stone Mattress is a great place to start.

As Black Friday is coming next week, its a great day to shop for books (and beat the crowds at other more obvious places to shop). I’ll have a list of recommended books for you in my next column.

Upcoming Book Events:

Saturday, November 22 (7:00 PM): Reading featuring Lisa Samuels at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 East Locust Street, Milwaukee. $6-$8 (414) 263-5001

Sunday, November 23, 2:00 PM): HYBRID [transported by word and image], featuring poets Kim Blaeser, Matt Rogge, Margaret Rozga, William Stobb, and Angie Trudell Vasquez, at Woodland Pattern Book Center. FREE

Tuesday, November 25 (7:00 PM): British Mystery Tea with Tasha Alexander, author of The Counterfeit Heiress: A Lady Emily Mystery, and Charles Finch, author of The Laws of Murder: A Charles Lenox Mystery, at Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee. (414) 332-1181

Send your book club picks and author event information to me at or on Facebook at  And good reading!

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