Some things should not be collected¨a gun collector could, for instance, be accused of stockpiling, warmongering. But people will and do gather objects to them, particularly books, and there are certainly bibliophiles who will want this one too. Approached separately, these mostly feministic musings by Margaret Atwood must have been witty in their contrivance, chortlingly satirical, etc., but together they feel like the same vituperative joke deconstructed ad infinitum. So, if you like your feminism streamlined, have I got a book for you. In Good Bones And Simple Murders, Atwood finds any number of ways to attack the male persona (non grata), even to the extreme of blaming him for women's stupidity. But that's okay because we need dull-witted women, as apparently they are the backbone of narrative itself. Atwood disses men from the viewpoint of other planetary life; now that's alienation. Men are accused of war, of having lackluster moral fiber, of creating facile women, of putting these same on pedestals, of rape, of disempowerment. It all got a little much for me.
It isn't all male-bashing, though, and certain essays, especially the ones concerned with our diminishing environment struck a chord:
But we still find the world astounding, we can't get enough of it; even as it shrivels, even as its many lights flicker and are extinguished (the tigers, the leopard frogs, the plunging dolphin flukes), flicker and are extinguished, by us, by us, we gaze and gaze. Where do you draw the line, between love and greed?" ('We Want It All', p155)
Or in 'My Life As A Bat': "What do we pray for? We pray for food as all do, and for health and for the increase of our kind; and for deliverance from evil, which cannot be explained by us...Goddess of caves and grottoes: bless your children." (p116)
Some of the arch-feminist essays were irresistible, particularly 'Making A Man' which gives crafty recipes for the fabrication of your own mate¨"Should you give your man a belly button, or not?...Use your thumb." (p39). However, next we are treated to a role switching, futuristic piece in which the men have their turn in the culinary spotlight ("Men who could not cook very well hung about the edges of these groups, admiring the older and more experienced ones, wishing they could be like them" p47) Then, a treatise on The Female Body ("...has many uses. It's been used as a door knocker, a bottle opener, as a clock..." p74). All of this has a cunningly cheeky tone and might appeal to some but, in the inimitable words of Miss Jean Brody, "For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like."
Good Bones and Simple Murders is 35 clever little rhetorical essays. These showcase the literary forms of fantasy, gothic, allegory and the fairytale. This book is sometimes insightful, often inciting, poignant, cryptic and occasionally depressing but what it is most of all is Atwoodian ephemera. You may need it to fill out your collection. ˛
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is a Toronto writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Prism International, Smoke, Blood & Aphorisms and is forthcoming in Prairie Fire. She is the Fiction Editor at The Literary Review of Canada.