Jessica Thurlow's Reviews > Good Bones

Good Bones by Margaret Atwood
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Jan 20, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: canadian, poetry, short-story

I loved Margaret Atwood's "Good Bones"! To be fair, I must disclose, I already loved Margaret Atwood. However, based on my intense love of all literature, I feel my sentiments are still valid.

Though a short read, it certainly wasn't a light read! Atwood packs her collection full analogies, comments on gender roles and society and sarcastic jokes that the reader must work hard to unpack. Each page was an adventure. Atwood works heavily with well known fairy tales. She looks at these well-trodden stories from all angles and always gives her readers a new perspective from which to view the story. For example, Atwood attacks The Little Red Hen in a way that comments on how society criticizes go-getters and those are are self-made wealthy:

"You know my story. Probably you had it told to you as a shining example of how you
yourself ought to behave.

"I found the grain of wheat, true. So what? There are lots of grains of wheat lying

"I could have eaten that grain of wheat right away. Done myself a nutritional favour.
But instead I planted it.

"Whenever they said Not me, I smiled. I never lost my temper.

"Who will help me eat this loaf of bread? I said. I will ... [they said]. They meant
it, too. They held out their paws, hooves, tongues, claws, mandibles, prehensile tails.
They drooled at me with their eyes. They whined. They shoved petitions through my mail
slot. They became depressed .... They said it was my fault, for having a loaf of bread
when they had none.

"You can bake more, they said.

"I know what the story says, what I'm supposed to have said .... Don't believe a word
of it. As I've pointed out, I'm a hen, not a rooster.

"Here, I said. I apologize for self-denial. I apologize for having the idea in the first
place. I apologize for luck. I apologize for self-denial .... I apologize for being a hen.

"Have some more.
"Have mine (Atwood, 11-13)."

In this re-telling of The Little Red Hen, the reader sympathizes with the hen and disdains the other animals who wouldn't help. Of course, that's the idea in the original story as well, but in this version the hen is not portrayed as a genius but as a regular hen who happened across a grain of wheat. The hen can be equated to an average person who combines ingenuity, luck and hardwork to accomplish something. The hen becomes a representative of the wealthy. The animals become examples of a greedy, selfish and entitled middle class. I believe this could be a comment on the idea that, in our society, we tend to pass the blame instead of take initiative and do things for ourselves. We often watch as opportunities pass us by; waiting for something to fall in our laps instead of reaching out to grab them.

However, the book is not only heavy and serious subject matter. Atwood also includes fun pieces such as Stump Hunting. "Dead stumps are the favorite disguises of wild animals (Atwood, 41)" Atwood begins. As the how-to guide continues the reader learns how to kill, transport, carve, store and grill the dead animal that had been masquerading as a dead stump in the middle of the river. I read this extended recipe at least three separate times and laughed out loud every time. Tumbled among some intense and serious subject matter this fun and airy piece provides variety, texture and comic relief right in the middle. Which allows the reader a breather before plunging, once again, into the thick waters of gender challenging and societal comments.

As I've already mentioned, I adore the writing style of Margaret Atwood. She cracks me up and makes me smile all over. Reading Atwood is like a warm hug topped with sarcasm, and, as a friend of mine recently commented, that is the "best kind of hug, really (Jaimie, Facebook Status Comment, January 20th)."

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