The Tent – Margaret Atwood

May I respectfully suggest that you find a copy of this little book at your local library?  I can?  Good.

It is full of the same sharp tongued prose that made The Penelopiad a delight to read.  I cannot truly say that I understood each and every one of these little two and three page essays, but I certainly enjoyed the prose.

It is hard to pick only a few out for mentioning, but I would single out Our Cat Enters HeavenChicken Little Goes Too FarThree Novels I Won’t Write SoonPost-Colonial and Bring Back Mom: An Invocation.

I cannot do justice to these short ditties by summarising them yet further, so I will not try.  But to give you a flavour, I will extract a few of the essential lines from Our Cat Enters Heaven.

The excerpts are from the closing page.

They aren’t mice, said God.  But catch as many as you like.  Don’t kill them right away.  Make them suffer.
If they aren’t mice, what are they? he said.  Already he’d pounced on one.  He held it down under his paw.  It was kicking, and uttering tiny shrieks.
They’re the souls of human beings who have been bad on Earth, said God, half-closing its yellowy-green eyes.  Now if you don’t mind, it’s time for my nap.
What are they doing in heaven then? said our cat.
Our heaven is their hell, said God.  I like a balanced universe.

Chicken Little Goes Too Far is just too funny, cutting and thoroughly modern.  And correct me if I’m wrong, but surely she is basing the chicken himself on an ex-Vice President of the USA?

I am sorely tempted to do something naughty and copy the entirety of Bring Back Mom for you to read.  But I won’t.  I will tell you that it brought a stinging sensation to my eyes as I read it.  Even though it does not describe my experience of motherhood, it was full of barbs and truths and sadness of experiences from (hopefully) days gone by.

Then there is the eponymous piece, The Tent.  I am not a writer, other than here at my blogs, but I was taken with the imagery of this essay.  It was quite evocative and I thought an interesting view of what it could feel like as a writer.  I wonder who Atwood pictured as the howlers with the red and shining eyes.

And Nightingale reminds me that I should be getting out some of my Classics books and actually reading them properly.  Now which box was The Birds put away in?
My final recommendation is to keep Google close by for looking up Procne and Thylacine*.

Highly recommended for light bedtime reading.

* If Classics is your thing, then Procne won’t be a problem, and if you like the extinct fauna of Australia, neither will thylacine.

2 thoughts on “The Tent – Margaret Atwood

  1. I really enjoy Atwood, there is just so much she has simmering away underneath it all. Haven’t read this yet, so I’m bumping it up the list!


    1. Yes, she does have a lot going on. I often feel slightly out of the joke as my time in the Classics department at Uni was somewhat half-hearted, and she seems to use quite a few classics reproducing them in a modern form and idiom.
      It won’t take you long – the copy I have is 155 very small pages long. Not all pages are full text either. If WCL doesn’t have it, let me know & I’ll drop this copy off.


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