Stone Mattress, Margaret Atwood’s first collection since Moral Disorder in 2006, begins with three linked stories about women who have been romantically involved with a middling poet named Gavin Putnam ... Many of this book’s stories — or 'tales,' as the subtitle and acknowledgments insist — offer characters a chance to put their own understandings of gallantry, courage and revenge to the test, in ways both mundane and extraordinary ... An obsession with aging and dying unites much of Stone Mattress, and Atwood, more than 40 books into her career, has arrived here preoccupied not just with the churn of generations but also with legacy and reputation, with getting straight the story of one’s life — the tale about the tale — and with surviving what happens once no one is paying any attention anymore.
...tilt several degrees away from the ordinary, riffing on the fantastic, the macabre, and the grim ... Three tales in the collection feature linked characters... Most of the tales in Stone Mattress feature older characters whose predicaments are set against flashbacks to their youth and the now-quaint social norms of the 1960s and ‘70s ... Stone Mattress reveals Margaret Atwood at her most deliciously wicked and inventive. While these tales tend toward darker shadings of human experience, their subtexts are often playful, leavened by the author’s masterful wordplay.
In this case, it’s a gathering of what she calls Nine Tales, most of them relatively long stories by comparison with her earlier work, a gathering that I couldn’t be happier to have ...first three pieces — endearing, subtle, quite brilliant in their execution — create de facto skein of characters, a group of Toronto writers and poets who have known each other, and become romantically entangled with each other, for some decades ...rest of the pieces in this volume each stand alone ... Even as Atwood takes a vacation from publishing a new novel, the effects are pure, simple and stunning.
The stories in Stone Mattress, her latest book, possess that quality; they also tend to stray beyond the boundaries of realism and into the psychic terrain of the teller. Predictably amazing, this collection — eclectic, funny, vibrant, terrifying, beautiful and utterly delightful — illustrates why Atwood is a fan favorite as well as a critic’s dream .... While many of the men in Stone Mattress are revealed as ego-driven, highly functioning idiots who inflate their mediocre intelligence and minor successes, often at the risk of their lives...Atwood is equally critical of the women who tolerate such behavior, and they often meet similar disastrous ends, moral and otherwise ...offer piercing insight into the absurdity of human kindness and cruelty, thereby forcing the reader to reckon profoundly with these realities ...remind us that we all live under the veil of our delusions, and it’s up to us to find the courage to lift this veil and examine what’s beneath.
These are tales steeped in primal themes: the hero's journey, revenge, betrayal, gallantry, the outcast, the tragic. In the acknowledgments section of her new short story collection, Stone Mattress, Canadian Margaret Atwood illuminates her book's mythic intent...book opens with a trio of captivating, linked stories about a group of artists and writers and their romantic imbroglios ... The stories in Stone Mattress are sharp and contemporary, intelligent and darkly comic, yet awash in the wisdom of a nearly 75-year-old writer still very much in possession of her A-game ...Myths last over time, and the stories in this book have that very quality. They are timeless, memorable and quite simply fun.
Margaret Atwood's latest story collection, Stone Mattress, is subtitled 'Nine Tales' to signal its interest in the folkloric, the macabre and the supernatural ... Running throughout all of this is the fantastically dark comedy of old age ...book starts with three interlaced stories about long-estranged lovers and rivals who met in Toronto's early '60s bohemian sector ... The stories have the caustic wit, giddy deviance and propulsion of high-quality pulp, along with the probing interiority and flinty insights of Atwood's novels ... Not every story is a triumph, and a few pet words, phrases and jokes ought to have been iced on second appearance.
Stone Mattress is expertly arranged, its first section containing a set of three, interconnected stories, with each subsequent work linked to the rest through a slow, thematic unfolding ...represent Atwood at her best, and the consistency of her candor and humor carries across a wide variety of tones and generic conventions ... This is not the kind of short story collection you struggle through, weighed down by the stories’ similarities or the constancy of voice. It is cohesive enough to feel like a finished work, but dynamic enough to keep you turning pages ... At the very least, the stories in this collection are exciting and dangerous, as much as they are introspective and complex.
...in her new collection of stories, Margaret Atwood emphasizes one particular Atwood quality, which, for lack of a better word, I'll call 'wicked' ... Because this is a Margaret Atwood book, a lot here is pretty astonishing. Atwood explains, in her acknowledgements, that these stories are 'tales,' and that they 'owe a debt to tales through the ages' ... She seems to be addressing, in these stories, the way we all roll around, generation after generation, on nothing more than a big slab of rock, doing various unspeakable human things to one another ...strange, sharp and wild stories, which take on death and dreadfulness and the uses of fantasy.
There are also tales about tales – pulp horror, epic fantasy, love poetry – with nearly all the characters looking back from old age on a distant past that has become its own mythological landscape ... That distant past, in the three linked stories that open the collection, is boho Toronto in the early 60s, when hungry young poets wrote gems... As in the other stories, realism and ridiculousness, play and deadly seriousness, are held in fine balance throughout ... This long view throughout the collection is entirely unsparing, both of the vanished past and the vanishing present, but Atwood's prose is so sharp and sly that the effect is bracing rather than bleak.
Stylish, acerbic and wickedly funny, Margaret Atwood has assembled a group of stories in which people reflect on past lives while soldiering on ... The first three stories in the collection, 'Alphinland,' 'Revenant' and 'Dark Lady' read like outtakes from a novel, as they depend heavily on backstory set in the 1960s... Atwood is quite wonderful at drawing what comes next and what may happen after that. It’s a swift, neat trick, cleverly brought off ... With wit, sympathy and precision, Atwood draws readers into a reflective frame of mind. Then again, thinking about old age and what follows is an inevitable stage of life.
That’s often true in Atwood’s writing, which tends to be beautifully mannered and precise as its characters think things through in bloodless detail, then act according to hidden desires rather than their own well-presented reasoning ...many other characters in these stories are late in life, looking back toward old traumas, papered over by decades of other events. The theme isn’t heavily underlined, but it’s enough of a backbone to make these otherwise disparate, mostly new stories hold together ... The major frustration in Stone Mattress is that some of these stories are more ruminative and expansive than others, to the point where a few feel like incomplete novel openings ...Stone Mattress never comes across as rushed or ill-considered. Her writing remains balanced between accessible and flowery; she has a long-sustained knack for metaphor-strewn writing that feels carefully considered, but not dense or overworked.
Decay makes us vulnerable, and it has a noxious perfume.That’s one takeaway from Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress, her first collection of short fiction in eight years. Its nine tales focus largely on narrators in the throes of old age or illness ... In true Atwood fashion, however, the tales also are frequently funny ... Atwood’s tales aren’t always easy on their readers, and her openings, in particular, demand patience ... Atwood’s tales seem to serve, then, as a sort of mythic forecast, a world-weary Oracle charting a logical, albeit brutal, course ahead.
...in Stone Mattress, Atwood brings together nine stories that illustrate her exploring new themes even as she revisits familiar ones ... Like the tales of old, the stories collected here remove readers from the everyday, often introducing elements of surprise and wonder into their narratives ... Atwood's collection opens, for example, with a set of three loosely linked stories, all illustrating the advance of age and the lingering regrets of youth ...would serve as an excellent introduction to Atwood's work for readers new to her fiction, or at least to her short fiction.
Clever tales about writers, lovers and other weirdos ... This, explains Atwood in the acknowledgements, is a book of tales, not stories... Many of the characters in this collection are no longer young, but their situations, and the sentences that describe them, are fresh and vigorous... The first three tales, which are the highlight of the book, feature aging writers and their bohemian circle, interweaving funerals and ghostly conversations with accounts of old conquests and betrayals ... Up to her old tricks and not dropping a card.
Atwood, a bestselling master of fiction, delivers a stunning collection—her first since 2006's Moral Disorder. Most of the nine stories feature women who have been wronged as girls but recover triumphantly as adults ...brings her biting wit to bear on the battle of the sexes ... Readers love Atwood's women, despite, or because of, who they are and what they do. Add in her wild imagination...and it's clear that this grande dame is at the top of her game.