A collection of short stories that does not disappoint. Taking us on a trip down the paths where reality meets imagination and the world becomes a bit weird. On one hand, each of those stories is very normal, things that would totally happen to people every day. But then each of them also has the taste of the irrational, weird, and even unhinged.
I must have bought this book years ago in one of the second-hand bookshops when I was still regularly visiting such establishments. For the last two years, the mix of pandemic and my heroic efforts to decrease the number of books I own (failed, may I add) have pretty much kept me away from bookshops. I’m not sure what is sadder, the fact itself, or that I got used to it because of the circumstances. I forgot the pleasure of going to a physical bookshop so that I didn’t go crazy when it wasn’t allowed.
Either way, I found this slim tome on my shelf, right after finishing The Uncommon Type, which somehow alleviated my nth reading slumber since the beginning of 2020. The thought process was that maybe if one collection of short stories managed to keep my attention, a second one could not do much harm. Which was true.
That said I didn’t sail through this book, it took me a week, but that had nothing to do with the quality of it, and everything to do with my brain being scattered to pieces (which it still is as you can judge from this post).
We have here ten stories and because the book was published in 1991, by the sheer passage of time they are tinted with a bit of nostalgia. Maybe not by design but it still felt like a throwback into simpler times when there were significantly fewer screens, requiring less touching. What there is a lot of in this book is people, and Atwood describing their quirks with tenderness. She gives them time to breathe, despite the short form, helps us build up the moment when she rips a bit the fabric of reality to unveil the unexpected.
We have here a relationship influenced by a bog-man, an art collection built in response to a haunting memory, a family that cannot find a way to be together and not harm each other. But there is also the undertone of deeper issues such as longing for the youth that is slipping away, patriarchy and violence towards women, gender roles that start to rip at the seams, all of that signaled subtly, but present nonetheless. Just as unavoidable as in the real world.
It still makes for quite a light reading, focused more on surprising us and challenging our assumptions than dealing with all the unsolvables. I know it is not necessarily what one expects in a review of Margaret Atwood’s book, but it is playful. Let’s be honest no one can just be writing dystopias without any fun in life. It’s a great example of how the range of genres, styles, and levels is available to her talent.
Here you’ll find some quotes from Wilderness Tips
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska