Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wilderness Tips

Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood
Doubleday Publishing Group, 1991
Paperback, 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385491112 
short story collection
In each of these tales Margaret Atwood deftly illuminates the single instant that shapes a whole life: in a few brief pages we watch as characters progress from the vulnerabilities of adolescence through the passions of youth into the precarious complexities of middle age.  By superimposing the past on the present, Atwood paints interior landscapes shaped by time, regret, and life's lost chances, endowing even the banal with a sense of mystery.  Richly layered and disturbing, poignant at times and scathingly witty at others, the stories in Wilderness Tips take us into the strange and secret places of the heart and inform the familiar world in which we live with truths that cut to the bone.
My Thoughts:
It is hard to comment on such a perfectly executed collection of short stories as those found in Margaret Atwood's Wilderness Tips. The ten short stories in this collection include: True Trash, Hairball, Isis in Darkness, The Bog Man, Death by Landscape, Uncles, The Age of Lead, Weight, Wilderness Tips, and Hack Wednesday.
I can honestly say that I found them all equally brilliant.
The collection of stories covers the unpredictability of life: disappearances, betrayals, affairs, revenge, reflections, consequences, and desires. Her protagonists, mainly woman with 2 male exceptions, are persevering, confronting, and surviving in the particular wilderness they face, whether real or emotional. For some of the characters events in the past are forcing them to confronting the present. 
Really, Margaret Atwood presents an excellent example of how to succeed at writing short stories in this collection. She always tells her poignant stories with exact details and descriptions. The stories can be melancholy, eerie, disturbing, contemplative, humorous, or unsettling, while the prose is always descriptive and concise. 
Very Highly Recommended
The waitresses are basking in the sun like a herd of skinned seals, their pink-brown bodies shining with oil. They have their bathing suits on because it's the afternoon. In the early dawn and dusk they sometimes go skinny-dipping, which makes this itchy crouching in the mosquito-infested bushes across from their private dock a great deal more worthwhile. pg. 3
The hair in it was red - long strands of it wound round and round inside, like a ball of wet wool gone berserk or like the guck you pulled out of a clogged bathroom-sink drain. pg. 34
Julie broke up with Connor in the middle of a swamp.
Julie silently revises: not exactly in the middle, not knee-deep in rotting leaves and dubious brown water. More or less on the edge; sort of within striking distance. Well, in an inn, to be precise. Or not even an inn. A room in a pub. What was available.
And not in a swamp anyway. In a bog. Swamp is when the water goes in one end and out the other, bog is when it goes in and stays in. How many times did Connor have to explain the difference? Quite a few. But Julie prefers the sound of swamp. pg. 77
When she was nearly five, Susanna did a tap dance on a cheese box. The cheese box was cylindrical and made of wood, and decorated with white crepe paper and criss-crossed red ribbons to look like a drum. pg. 121
"It's the forties look," she says to George, hand on her hip, doing a pirouette. "Rosie the Riveter. From the war. Remember her?"
George, whose name is not really George, does not remember. He spent the forties rooting through garbage heaps and begging, and doing other things unsuitable for a child. He has a dim memory of some film star posed on a calendar tattering on a latrine wall. Maybe this is the one Prue means. pg. 181
Marcia has been dreaming about babies. She dreams there is a new one, hers, milky-smelling and sweet-faced and shining with light, lying in her arms, bundled in a green knitted blanket. It even has a name, something strange that she doesn't catch. She is suffused with love, and with longing for it, but then she thinks, Now I will have to take care of it. This wakes her up with a jolt. pg. 207

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