Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

"The Tent" by Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury, 2006)

It's copyrighted to O.W. Toad - an anagram of her surname. There are 35 short pieces (articles, etc) occupying 155 small pages, at least 20 of those without text. I could have done without Atwood's drawings. And but for a few fragments (below) I could have done without section I as well.

  • Some routine chores. Inhale some smoke, chew selected plant materials, tell a couple of riddles, write things on leaves. Do the odd incantation; lead a few sightseeing tours of hell. Keep up the tone of the establishment. (p.10)
  • Here you come, descending in our pinkish cloud, glowing like a low-waatage light bulb or an aquarium in a chintzy car. Feathers sprout from your shoulders, rays of light shoot out from you, silver-and-gold confetti wafts down from you like metallic dandruff. It does not occur to you that your dress is covered with tiny fish hooks. On some of them scraps of bait are still hanging: cricket wings, worm torsos, old bank deposit slips (p.15)
  • vi) On the other hand how sad, to make your way like a snail, a very fast snail but a snail nonetheless, with no home but the one on your back, and that home an empty shell. A home filled with nothing but yourself. It's heavy, that lightness. It's crushing, that emptiness. (from "Orphan Stories", the best of section I's pieces)

Section II has much more to like - "Resources of the Ikarians" (in desperation they try to make money by producing artists who suffered in childhood and die early), "Our cat enters heaven", "Three novels I won't write soon", "Post-Colonial" and "Heritage House". In section III I like "The Tent". "Warlords" began well - "To be a warlord - that's a boy's dream everywhere. Point a finger, say Bang, and thousands die. Most of these sharpshooters grow up to become dentists" - but like too many other pieces, it requires editing.

Other reviews

  • Savidge reads (If you haven’t read any Atwood then this is actually a rather wonderful collection of hers to start with as you really do get a flavour of what a versatile author she is)
  • Vegan daemon (Perfect for: hardcore Atwood fans, or lovers of feminist poetry and eclectic short fiction)
  • Anita Sethi (Observer) (The Tent exposes the nuts and bolts of the tortuous creative process, but Atwood's talent struggles to breathe inside these claustrophobic prisons.)
  • Hermione Lee (Guardian) (The Tent is a book about endings, old age and deaths.)
  • Michelle Roberts (Independent) (Her updated versions of Salome and Helen of Troy, however, seem a little dull and stale.)

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