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Stone Mattress: Nine Tales [Rauer Buchschnitt] [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Margaret Atwood

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16. September 2014
A collection of highly imaginative short pieces that speak to our times with deadly accuracy. Vintage Atwood creativity, intelligence, and humor: think Alias Grace.

Margaret Atwood turns to short fiction for the first time since her 2006 collection, Moral Disorder, with nine tales of acute psychological insight and turbulent relationships bringing to mind her award-winning 1996 novel, Alias Grace. A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband in "Alphinland," the first of three loosely linked stories about the romantic geometries of a group of writers and artists. In "The Freeze-Dried Bridegroom," a man who bids on an auctioned storage space has a surprise. In "Lusus Naturae," a woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. In "Torching the Dusties," an elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. And in "Stone Mattress," a long-ago crime is avenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite. In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game.

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"STUNNING…Atwood brings her biting wit to bear on the battle of the sexes."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"SHREWDLY BRILLIANT, GLEEFULLY MISCHIEVOUS, AND ACERBICALLY HILARIOUS…Atwood has the raptor's penetrating gaze, speed, and agility and never misses her mark."--Booklist, starred review
"Clever tales about writers and lovers…ATWOOD IS A PLAYFUL, SHARP-EDGED, AND POLITICALLY ALERT AUTHOR."--Kirkus Reviews

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, short-listed for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and her most recent, MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator's Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A bit bumpy but Atwood is mostly in very fine form here 15. August 2014
Von K. Corn - Veröffentlicht auf
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If the rating system allowed, I'd give this one slightly more than 4 and 1/2 stars so I rounded up to 5 stars. I was drawn into most of these tales and I think this work is actually a fine introduction to Atwood's writing, her finely crafted sentences, and often otherworldly (or at least in between reality and surrealism) themes. She is also excellent when, at her best, she creates detailed portraits of individuals. They aren't always ones I'd like to know but are fascinating on the page.

I've had an ambivalent feeling about a fair number of Atwood's books. Some I've liked a great deal. Others left me cold. But I can absolutely recommend "Stone Mattress." It is one I'd be happy to reread.

While I liked - often loved- some of the tales in this book, there were a couple which weren't nearly as compelling as the rest. "Stone Mattress", the centerpiece of the book, focused on a woman bent on revenge and murder for a terrible injustice done her many years ago. Does she succeed? I won't disclose that, won't spoil it for potential readers. But I can say that I never thought I'd feel drawn to a possible murderess and feel compassion and understanding for her intense anger. I do want to add that some of the details in "Stone Mattress" are gruesome - so be aware of that.

If I tried to describe every one of the works here, this review would be overly long so I'll simply mention one other which resonated with me, "Torching the Dusties". It portrays a timely issue, the resentment felt by some younger adults towards the older generation who - in their opinion - "messed it up" for the next generation, killing the planet with greed and blindness to their impact on the environment. The younger adults feel cheated and are outraged, determined to do something about it. Again, I won't reveal more details about what happens next. I hate reviews with spoilers.

I hope this review perks your interest and if you've never been a fan of Atwood that you consider revisiting her writing by reading "Stone Mattress." I'd be interested in other readers" take on it. I received a free copy of this for review but was a bit reluctant to dive into an Atwood book. I'm glad I dove into this one.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Nine Fine Stories from a Gifted Writer 2. August 2014
Von Falkor The White Luck Dragon - Veröffentlicht auf
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Margaret Atwood is one of our most talented and prolific writers. She is the author of more than forty books spanning many genres. Atwood was a poet before she was a novelist, and it shows in this collection through her wonderful descriptive writing. Consider the opening paragraph of the first short story, Alphinland:

"The freezing rain sifts down, handfuls of shining rice thrown by some unseen celebrant. Wherever it hits, it crystallizes into a granulated coating of ice. In the streetlights it looks so beautiful: like fairy silver, thinks Constance."

The first three stories in the trilogy form a trilogy involving people who once knew one another. The first story is about Constance, an aging fantasy writer who is having trouble distinguishing reality from imagination. The second story, Revenant, is about a poet, Gavin, who once loved Constance. The third story, Dark Lady, focuses on a pair of twins, one of whom knew Gavin. These three stories are all connected through their characters, but also their subject matter: they involve older people reflecting on their lives. These stories are also noteworthy for their dark sense of humor.

Standouts in the collection include The Freeze Dried Groom, about an antiques dealer who gets more than he bargained for; Stone Matress, a story of a woman on Arctic cruise who seeks revenge on someone who wronged her, and Torching the Dusties, about an elderly woman struggling with Charles Bonnet Syndrome while radical youth group threatens to burn down her retirement home. Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a real disorder, and Atwood does a good job of incorporating it into the story. Some of these stories take jabs at the literary world- Revenant makes fun of obsessive literary fans, and the Dead Hand Loves You satirizes the horror genre. Perhaps Atwood is using this book to reflect on her own career. This is a fine collection, and is recommended to fans of Atwood or short stories in general.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Atwood is at her wicked best with these stories 18. August 2014
Von Cynthia - Veröffentlicht auf
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"Growing old ain't for sissies", or at least that's what my gramma used to say. Atwood is at her wicked best with these stories. There's not a dud in the group. The first three are an interconnected trilogy from three different perspectives. The protagonists look back on their youth and come to some surprising conclusions. The rest of the stories are independent of one another but they share an ancient outlook. This is Atwood at the top of her twisted game so don't expect the usual themes. Age has its rewards but also plenty of horrors, some strange empowerment and expected dependencies or if not dependencies some very real fears. Along with murder, revenge, and gentile mayhem Atwood includes her signature black humor. It's difficult to sort the fantasy from reality or worse, maybe it's an all too real inevitability. OK there's some love and bonding thrown in as well but that's not as entertaining as the horror. "Torching the Dusties" the last story in the book is some of Atwood's most excellent and excellently chilling work. SHIVER
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Tales, Not Stories 30. Juli 2014
Von Jill I. Shtulman - Veröffentlicht auf
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In an appendage to her short story collection, Margaret Atwood reveals that these are not stories at all, but tales; in her words, removed "at least slightly from the realm of mundane works and days, as it evokes the world of the folk tale, the wonder tale, and the long-ago teller of tales."

Score point: Atwood. At 74 years old, she creates characters who are mostly aging and feisty, bohemian and free-spirited, increasingly self-aware, and ready to correct and revenge the ills done to them in their callow youth.

Perhaps the most compelling are the first three tales, which function as a trilogy. The first tale sets the stage: young Constance, the renowned writer of a fantastical series of books about the fictional Alpinland, is the lover of a self-important writer of The Dark Lady poems - a legend in his own mind - named Gavin. The two successive tales let us know what happened to Gavin and his subsequent lovers and worshipers: "It's like being drawn into a time tunnel; the centrifugal force is irresistible." The tales are pitch-perfect and mildly satirical, gently skewing writers and our ephemeral lives: "He had a great body," one character says, "While it lasted."

Two other strong favorites for me are The Freeze-Dried Groom: Sam, an aging con-man whose wife has just tossed him out, bids on an auctioned storage space. What he finds there is far more than he bargained for...and perhaps, exactly what he deserves. The eponymous tale, Stone Mattress, focuses on Verna, a three-time widow who meets the man who raped and humiliated her on an Alaskan cruise. She is avenged by a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite (the titled stone mattress), in a particularly imaginative revenge fantasy.

In the last tale, Torching the Dusties, Ms. Atwood touches on one of the collection's themes: "You believed you could transcend the body as you aged...You believed you could rise above it, to a serene non-physical realm. But it is only through ecstasy you can do that and ecstasy is achieved through the body itself. Without the bone and sinew of wrings, no flight." These luminous stories - some of which succeed more than others - Ms. Atwood again helps her readers to soar.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Review of Stone Mattress 7. September 2014
Von Lydia - Veröffentlicht auf
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I have a confession to make. I haven't been reading as much as I want to - well, I haven't been reading fiction "for fun" as much as I have wanted to. The reason is that now that school is in session and I'm focusing on a specific area of literature and navigating my way through graduate school, I just can't afford to set aside time to read for pleasure. But then, the other night I was thinking about that and I realized that it shouldn't be the case. Just because I'm in school and reading other things doesn't mean I can't pick up a book for fun and so the first one I picked up was STONE MATTRESS by Margaret Atwood.

There's a reason I went to Atwood. She never fails - not once - to get me out of a reading slump. Her style of writing just grabs me by the throat and, essentially, forces me to continue to read until the last page has been turned and the story finished. STONE MATTRESS was no exception. I loved - no I adored this collection of short stories. I think it's Atwood at her absolute sharpest in wit and her best in storytelling. There's a story in here where a woman commits the "perfect murder," a connected group of stories about the art of writing and what makes for good literature and what doesn't and explores the lives of people who think they determine these things... the stories just go on and on and every one kept building on the one before until I felt completely overwhelmed (in a good way) with the sheer genius on the page before me.

I know it's a stylish thing these days to gush over Atwood. If you are any serious sort of book lover, it seems to be expected that she ranks high on your list, but I have to say all that aside, she's just a damn fine writer and deserves every bit of praise coming her way. STONE MATTRESS is testament to that and I highly recommend you pick it up as soon as possible and discover what I found in there. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
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