I love Margaret Atwood's voice: her wry wit, wide-ranging vocabulary, well-woven sentences of varying length and pert observations. Although the firstI love Margaret Atwood's voice: her wry wit, wide-ranging vocabulary, well-woven sentences of varying length and pert observations. Although the first few linked stories, connected by the relationships of the characters, didn't capture me, I was still enjoying her style and felt, as a reader, comfortable and in good hands.
This collection has an upward trajectory. Starting with "Lusus Naturae," I was hooked. The rest of the stories "The Freeze-Dried Groom," "I Dream of Zenia With the Bright Red Teeth," "The Head Hand Loves You," and the title story "Stone Mattress" were standouts.
The stories are fanciful and edgy and filled with dangerous and untrustworthy, but likable characters. The question often lingers, "Who will betray whom?"
My favorite story was the last one, "Torching the Dusties," about an elderly woman, who is going blind and hallucinates dancing little people, in an assisted living facility under siege.
I have always loved Atwood's short story collections and Stone Mattress is another win.
Quotes from "Torching the Dusties" (I do appreciate how Atwood creates delightful, stand-out sentences long and short and, particularly, is a master at employing those lovely long descriptive ones.):
"We have to be kind to each other in here, she tells herself. We're all we have left."
"Like herself, he must be worried how he smells: that acid, stale odour of aging bodies so noticeable when all the Ambrosiads are assembled in the dining room, their base note of slow decay and involuntary leakage papered over with applied layers of scent — delicate florals on the women, bracing spices on the men, the blooming rose or brusque pirate image inside each of them still fondly cherished."
"According to Tobias, women hang around longer because they're less capable of indignation and better at being humiliated, for what is old age but one long string of indignities? What person of integrity would put up with it?"
"Now they venture forth, like mice in moonlight." ...more
And the winner is..."The Cobbler of Oz," by Jonathan Maberry with a fresh, delightful and touching take on the Land of Oz. Although this powerhouse ofAnd the winner is..."The Cobbler of Oz," by Jonathan Maberry with a fresh, delightful and touching take on the Land of Oz. Although this powerhouse of an anthology brings together a party of amazing writers, weaving beautiful threads, as a whole it often felt more remixed than re-imagined. in a field of Dorothy's, Maberry's little Winged Monkey Nyla stands out....more
The difficulty with this review will be not to gush too much...well-told short stories are potent magic and Cat Rambo's a magician.
If you have an affiThe difficulty with this review will be not to gush too much...well-told short stories are potent magic and Cat Rambo's a magician.
If you have an affinity for speculative works, fantasy with sorcerers and mermaids, science fiction with new gizmos, other worlds and aliens, this collection will enchant.
Perhaps it's time to go on a short story binge. If you appreciate short stories by Aimee Bender, Ryan Boudinot, Joyce Carol Oates, Karen Joy Fowler, Carol Emshwiller, Octavia Butler, Rebecca Brown or Julia Slavin, try these too.
Standouts from the collection include: "Seeking Nothing," "RealFur" (transgenic living fur coats, eerie and memorable as Margaret Atwood's ChickieNobs in Oryx and Crake), "Surrogates," (Insanity Chip!), and "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain" (a Nebula Award nominee and a favorite. I blogged about it and Joyce Carol Oates' "Amputee").
A note of caution: With themes of alienation, loneliness, miscommunication, and disconnection many of these stories are sad draughts.
Pairs well with:Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight, The Surgeon's Tale and Other Stories with Jeff Vandermeer, Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler and the ineffable Lightspeed Magazine.
Amazon asks the silly question, "Would you buy this book again?". Not only would I, but I likely will — the print version. It's one of those I'd like to have on the shelf. Even with improvements on the newest Kindle, I still find e-books unsatisfying for short stories. Maybe short stories are like butterflies: more visual, elusive, mesmerizing. They need to flip about and be admired.
OK, now let's go ahead and gush. Cat Rambo has some remarkable geek cred, (roots in D&D, MUD, worked for Microsoft, lives in awesome Seattle-area) and writer cred. She's learned her craft from Octavia Butler (!) at Clarion West. Publication credits. Award nomination credits. She's running for SWFA vice president. If you like Pinterest, she posts the most lovely images. Follow. Follow.
She's currently shopping a quartet of fantasy novels, which seem sure to find a home — might as well put those on the to-read list now. ...more
Thank you, public library. I was looking for Robert Olen Butler's short story collection Tabloid Dreams, but this was the book by the author my librarThank you, public library. I was looking for Robert Olen Butler's short story collection Tabloid Dreams, but this was the book by the author my library had, otherwise, I might not have tried this book of beautiful, poignant stories mostly written from the perspective of Vietnamese immigrants to Louisiana after the Vietnam War.
Every story had strength.
Notable: "The Trip Back," a businessman picks up his wife's grandfather at the airport for a long awaited reunion; "Love," a jealous husband tries to keep claim to his beautiful wife; "Crickets" a father attempts to connect to his Americanized son; and "Missing," an American living peacefully in a village in Vietnam is discovered to be a solider considered missing in action.
Now, without reservation, I'll go purchase a copy of Tabloid Dreams. ...more
Yikes! Written in 1909, this story reads as a parody of modern life. Alternately, one wonders if somehow people reading this story were inspired by itYikes! Written in 1909, this story reads as a parody of modern life. Alternately, one wonders if somehow people reading this story were inspired by its ideas and mistook it for a guide, reading it literally, ignoring the ironic tone, instead of as dystopia and cautionary tale. A disturbing sensation.
"Vashti was seized with the terrors of direct experience."
"'Beware of first-hand ideas!...First-hand ideas do not really exist.'...Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element - direct observation."
The story serves as a reminder to use the body and to appreciate our corporeality. It invites us to open our windows, go outside, let the sun and the rain fall on us, and explore the world. Let us move freely, be present with and touch each other. Let us enjoy a sense of openness and space. Go forth!
It emphasizes the value of direct experience and observation.
After writing this Goodreads review, it's tempting to post to Facebook and share the ideas within! Oh, dear. Go to yoga and walk the dogs instead?
Quotable: "She knew several thousand people, in certain directions human intercourse has advanced enormously."
"The room, although it contained nothing, was in touch with all that she cared for in the world."
"It was naked, humanity seemed naked, and all these tubes and buttons and machineries neither came into the world with us, nor will they follow us out, nor do they matter supremely while we are here."
"But Humanity, in its desire for comfort, had over-reached itself. It had exploited the riches of nature too far. Quietly and complacently, it was sinking into decadence, and progress had come to mean the progress of the Machine."
Pairs well with: To wallow in the dystopic impulses, GeorgeOrwell's 1984 and the short story "Division of Labor," by Benjamin Roy Lambert in Lightspeed Magazine.
To break free and venture out, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking," by Rebecca Solnit....more
Go read this, do! It's a fantastic collection of 89 weird and wonderful very short stories in 572 pages. Each story starts out strange and winds its wGo read this, do! It's a fantastic collection of 89 weird and wonderful very short stories in 572 pages. Each story starts out strange and winds its way into even more experimental, experiential territory.
Also, do read Emshwiller's novels The Mount and Carmen Dog. Yes, do!
Not yet sufficiently enticed?
Here are some first lines of stories:
(Writers, read this for: first lines; examples of brief, engaging stories of the type published in numerous science fiction and literary magazines and journals and anthologies)
"It's Saturday," the absolutely hairless woman said, and she pulled at her frayed, green kerchief to make sure it covered her head." — "Day at the Beach"
"This the diary of lost sleep." — "The Queen of Sleep"
"The person you care about the most has just told you you're no good." — "Joy in Our Cause"
"In a dream I follow him to a cocktail party of his admirers." — "I Love You"
"We are advancing into an unknown land with a deliberate air of nonchalance, our elbows out, our hands on our hips, or standing one foot on a rock when there's an opportunity for it." — "Abominable"
"I am the woman of the year, or so it seems so far." — "Verging on the Pertinent"
"In the beginning there was a goddess from whom all things flawed flowed." — "If Not Forever, When?"
"We have always yearned for great men." — "The Promise of Undying Love"
"She is eighty-two and in love." — "There Is No Evil Angel But Love"
"Grandma used to be a woman of action. She wore tights. She had big boobs, but a teeny-weeny bra." — "Grandma"
Still, here? Goodness, dear, go read Emshwiller!
One issue, editing: This volume contains far too many obvious typographical errors. ...more
A fantastic sampler of stories by fabulous women writers including an introduction to each author and a recommended reading list. This anthology won'tA fantastic sampler of stories by fabulous women writers including an introduction to each author and a recommended reading list. This anthology won't save you, however.
It has "BloodChild," by Octavia Butler, but you'll still need BloodChild: and Other Stories, for the other stories and Butler's commentary. It has "Game Night at the Fox and Goose," but you'll want Karen Joy Fowler's anthology What I Didn't See, where every story reels you in. It has "Scorched Supper on New Niger," by Suzy McKee Charnas, but you'll want Stagestruck Vampires, the anthology of her fabulous fantasy works. It has "Abomidable," but can you live without The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller? There's a story by Angela Carter, but you'll want Bloody Chambers and possibly Saints and Strangers, too. You'll probably also want the anthology Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century edited by Justine Larbalestier which, in addition to Pat Murphy's "Rachel in Love" collected here, also has Pamela Zoline's "Heat Death of the Universe." After reading "Tiny Tango," you'll want to read Judith Moffett's novel The Ragged World.
Notable here are Jayge Carr's "Webrider," and Pat Cadigan's "Angel."
This anthology won't sate you or necessarily introduce you to each author's most compelling work, but it does spark thought. The stories each explore a particularly feminist line of speculation.
What if: • the fate of the world rested on a discarded old woman? Lisa Goldstein's "Midnight News" • women and men lived apart? Emshwiller's "Abdomidable" • people chose only to have male babies until women were an extremely scare resource? Pamela Sargent's "Fear"
The ideas may be ones you've considered before, but it is remarkable how a science fiction short story can tighten the focus on an issue, magnify and bright it to light, and make a searing impression. ...more