Friday, May 23, 2008

Wilderness Tips

It seems that I've been on somewhat of a Margaret Atwood binge here of late. It started with the Handmaid's Tale, then Cat's Eye, followed by The Penelopiad. In addition, I ordered and have sitting on my shelves Alias Grace and the Blind Assassin. I finished my latest helping of Atwood a couple days ago. Wilderness Tips is a short story collection, which deals with a lot of the same types of themes that Atwood is known for in her writing. Women always play prominent roles. For the most part the women are strong or are struggling against oppression to exert their strength. There are ten stories in this collection, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed them all. It would be extremely difficult to pick one as a favorite. I guess if I had to single one out, it would be "Weight" simply because I continue to think about this story.

It begins with a woman trying to get a businessman to make a charitable donation over dinner. It's obvious that she's willing to do whatever it takes to secure his donation for her cause -- a battered women's shelter. In fact, she lets us know that this is not the first time that she's used her sexuality to get what she wants from a man. She's never married and doesn't think she ever will. She's not sure that she wants to. But there is some ambiguity there. As the story progresses, we learn that she and her friend, Molly, started adult life as young, idealistic attorneys who were going to help women and change the world in the process. She describes Molly as optimistic and caring -- someone who sees the best in others and believes that she can make things better for them. As the story continues, we learn that Molly eventually marries and has children, but things are not as they should be. She considers leaving her husband and discusses it with her friend. I can't really say any more about the story without giving too much away. However, I think it's interesting that the author decides to put an educated, middle class, feminist into this particular situation. I think society often assumes that women who find themselves in destructive relationships are often poor and uneducated. They stay with their man because they have no other options or don't know what else to do. That's one of the things that I really like about Atwood. She doesn't always follow the conventional wisdom. She looks at things from all angles and her characters are multidimensional.

Though feminist in nature, her writing doesn't paint all men as evil and all women as victims (thank goodness!). It's much more complex than that. No matter what I've read by Margaret Atwood -- novel, short story, poetry -- she always makes me think. I'm going to order another collection of short stories that I saw somewhere online the other day -- The Door -- and continue my Margaret Atwood feast.

6 comments:

Ravenous Reader said...

My favorite Margaret Atwood novel is Alias Grace, so I hope you enjoy that one. I've never read any of her short stories - like you, I was not a short story reader until recently (thanks to Kate and The Short Story Challenge!) I need one more collection to complete the challenge, so perhaps I'll try this one!

stefanie said...

If you're going to feast, Atwood is the one to feast on! Wilderness Tips is a great collection and you're right, it's hard to pick a favorite out it because they are all so good. I have to admit though I am somewhat partial to the hairball story.

Lisa said...

ravenous reader, I had signed up for the short story challenge, but I haven't been posting my reviews to the challenge site. But, I have become a short story reader. :)

stephanie, I agree the hairball story is really good (and disturbing). I'm enjoying my feast very much.

Danielle said...

I love Margaret Atwood, too, and went on a big binge some years back. I've read the first two stories in this collection and both were good. I've just been reading them as I feel like it, but I do want to read the entire collection. I think The Blind Assassin is my favorite of her novels, though I also love The Handmaid's Tale. I think I've read Alias Grace about three times now! And she is never predictable or conventional, is she!

Lisa said...

danielle, I think you'll like all the stories in the collection. They're great! And you're right -- she doesn't ever get predictable. I'm so glad I still have some really great books ahead of me!

Angela Young said...

Just to let you know that I have tagged you for a meme here:

http://writinglifeandtheuniverse.blogspot.com/2008/05/favourite-authors-at-moments-notice.html

But, obviously, you don't have to take up the tag unless you feel like it.