Finally made it through this book, after setting it down and picking it up again throughout the semester. While I think the other Zipes book I've read...moreFinally made it through this book, after setting it down and picking it up again throughout the semester. While I think the other Zipes book I've read--Fairy Tale as Myth, Myth as Fairy Tale--was a more accessible and quicker read, this is going to prove invaluable to my thesis research. Some of the chapters got a little bogged down--particularly the Hans Christian Andersen chapter about Zipes discourse of the dominated theory (which I felt could have been articulated with far fewer words)--but others are wonderfully fascinating and--dare I say it--fun reads! The Disney chapter was illuminating, far more in depth than a similar chapter in FTaM,MaFT, and smartly written. Similarly, I found his look to George Macdonald, Oscar Wilde, and L.Frank Baum and their imaginings/challengings of the fairy tale utopia absolutely brilliant. The Weimar/Nazi chapter was another one that's fascinating from a sociohistorical perspective, but not a particularly easy or page-turning read. On the whole, I'd say this is much more in-depth and theoretical/professional than FTaM, MaFT--and certainly far more useful to me as I continue to work on my thesis. Only really recommended for people doing serious research or seriously interested in fairy tale/lit theory.(less)
This is only the second Atwood work I've read, though I've got several in the queue for possible use on my thesis. In comparison to The Handmaid's Tal...moreThis is only the second Atwood work I've read, though I've got several in the queue for possible use on my thesis. In comparison to The Handmaid's Tale (perhaps cliche, but that's where I got started), this collection of shorts certainly doesn't hold itself up too well. I enjoyed them quite a bit, but they were a bit inconsistent and somehow missing the magic I felt "THT" had. I think Atwood pinpoints the problem in the last story, when her narrator notes that "it will mean action, a thing I avoid when possible." I think that was one of the greatest disappointments--it seemed none of her narrators were active, engaging characters. They were passive observers, while other interesting lives happened around them.
Those were my problems, but don't get me wrong--it still got four stars for a reason. Her prose is stunning throughout, and I was left feeling that I could open the book and point at a line at random, and the line would be heart-stopping. Some of the stories, too, were fantastic. I *loved* Betty, Bluebeard's Egg, Scarlet Ibis, and The Salt Garden. Betty had an incredibly nostalgic, tragic way of looking back on childhood and the ways in which we discover how horrible adulthood can really be. Bluebeard's Egg was probably the most unpredictable piece in the collection--at first, I was waiting for the Bluebeard reference to makes its way into the story, then figuring out what the secret would be--which Atwood twists, by implying there is no secret--and then the twist at the end, which came as a shock, but still made sense. I loved that one. Scarlet Ibis almost reminded me of a Flannery O' Connor story, and The Salt Garden was just bizarre and wonderful.
While I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as an introduction to Atwood, it's definitely an enjoyable read and has a handful of really stellar stories.(less)
**spoiler alert** Certainly not my favorite Atwood, but still an enjoyable read. Besides, I give her a little lee-way with this one, considering it's...more**spoiler alert** Certainly not my favorite Atwood, but still an enjoyable read. Besides, I give her a little lee-way with this one, considering it's her first published novel. The writing is fairly typical Atwood--often dense, but with much quick humor and stunning imagery on hand. Marian is an interesting character, but my problem with her is that she doesn't really shine up against the collection of eccentric friends/foes/etc. around her--for example, Ainsley's plot of fertility-based domination, Clara's baby-induced paralysis, Duncan's web of lies and insanity, and the (mostly absent) landlady's totalitarian rule over the household are infinitely more interesting than Marian's plight. At least for me. And to some extent, I suppose that's the point. Marian is quite obviously losing her Self through the course of the novel; being both metaphorically consumed and physically unable to commit that same action. It is a really intriguing premise, but I don't think it ever seems a big enough focus in the book, because all the subplots seem to compete with it. Of course, they all tie together--issues with production and consumption, and how those figure into identity politics--but I would have liked perhaps a little more angst/focus placed on Marian's very big problem.
I admit that I've already found more appreciation for the book while glancing over some critical essays on it. Sharon Wilson's chapter on the novel in "Margaret Atwood's Fairy-Tale Sexual Politics" really made me think more critically about the fairy tale intertexts in the novel, as well as the dynamics and sexual politics of all the relationships Marian faces in her narrative. While I had my problems with it--I definitely lost some interest as I passed the 200 page mark--I think it's worth it, if you're an Atwood fan. Like I said, not my favorite work of hers, but still far better than most of the schlock out there.(less)
I'd give it a 4.5 if that were an option. In the end, though, I think I wanted to like this novel more than I actually did. While the characters were...moreI'd give it a 4.5 if that were an option. In the end, though, I think I wanted to like this novel more than I actually did. While the characters were so well fleshed-out, and Zenia is an incredible villain (and incredible because you never say for sure that she's a villain in the 'real' sense of the word), there was just something missing for me. It's still a really great novel, but it's as though it was just 5% away from being as great as my favorite Atwood novels (Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye, Oryx and Crake).
Perhaps it was that there were just so many narratives intertwined--maybe the emotional core of the novel lost some of its power in this way? Because the writing is stellar; some of her best, in fact. And I absolutely loved Tony, Roz, and Charis...I felt more connected to them than to most Atwood protagonists, with the exception of Elaine Risley. The use of fairy tale intertexts gave so many moments more cultural resonance, and the struggles against Zenia truly did feel epic. But something got lost in translation, and I can't pinpoint it. Maybe upon re-reading, I'll change my mind--especially seeing as I was in the midst of a really tough semester while I was working through this novel. It's worth it if you like Atwood; maybe I had my hopes just a touch too high.(less)