Jamilla Rice's Reviews > Good Bones and Simple Murders

Good Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood
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's review
May 12, 2012

really liked it
Read in January, 2010

Although this book of short stories is brief, it is very dense and is not a quick read. In fact, most (if not all) of the stories beg for a re-read in order to catch Atwood’s subtleties. As a whole, the pieces have a strong feminist theme threaded throughout, with a gifted writer’s sense of humor in the crafting of the written word. Economically sound and imaginative, there’s a story in here for everyone, although everyone may not like all of the stories. There were quite a few individual stories that I absolutely fell in love with, like “Happy Endings”, “Let Us Now Praise Stupid Women”, “In Love With Raymond Chandler”, “Simple Murders”, and the two listed below.

“Unpopular Gals” was the first that I adored in that she interprets the female villain characters, archetypal icons in various pieces of literature, using first person point of view to tell their opinions of how they have been characterized. In one, the archetypal “evil stepmother” pronounces,
“The thing about those good daughters is, they’re so good. Obedient and passive. Sniveling, I might add. No get-up-and-go. What would become of them if it weren’t for me? Nothing, that’s what . . . I stir things up, I get things moving . . . You can wipe your feet on me, twist my motives around all you like, you can dump millstones on my head and drown me in the river, but you can’t get me out of the story. I’m the plot, babe, and don’t ever forget it.” (11)

The other that I really liked was “Gertrude Talks Back” where Atwood gives Hamlet’s mother a voice, using a mixture of first and second person point of view, re imagining a more powerful and decisive Queen of Denmark who is frustrated with her unaffectionate husband and chooses to rectify the situation herself. In her one-sided dialogue (we only imagine the lines that Hamlet is saying, from Gertrude’s responses) she states, “Oh! You think what? You think Claudius murdered your Dad? Well, no wonder you’ve been so rude to him at the dinner table! If I’d known that, I could have put you straight in no time flat. It wasn’t Claudius, darling. It was me.”

These two stories remind me of her Penelopiad, where she tells Penelope’s side of the events which occurred after Odysseus left Ithaca to fight in the Trojan War, while she was left alone for the 10 years of the war’s duration and the 10 additional years it took her husband to return. The other stories are interesting, extremely well-crafted and delightfully experimental.

One, “Poppies: three Variations” is a collection of three short stories which use the words of John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” poem in order, (surrounded by other words of course) to tell three distinct tales. It’s hard to describe, but very cool.

Favorite/Memorable Quotes:

“. . . stupid women are not so stupid as they pretend: they pretend for love. Men love them because they make even stupid men feel smart: women for the same reason, and because they are reminded of all the stupid things they have done themselves, but mostly because without them there would be no stories . . . Let us now praise stupid women, who have given us Literature.”
“An affair with Raymond Chandler, what a joy! Not because of the mangled bodies and the marinated cops and hints of eccentric sex, but because of his interest in furniture.”
"Only after we had sniffed, fingered, rubbed, rolled on, and absorbed the furniture of the room would we fall into each other’s arms, and onto the bed (king-size? peach-colored? creaky? narrow? four-postered? pioneer-quilted? lime-green chenille-covered?), ready at last to do the same things to each other.”
“Whether he’s making her like it or making her dislike it or making her pretend to like it is important, but it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is making her. Over, from nothing, new. From scratch, the way he wants.”
“What men are most afraid of is not lions, not snakes, not the dark, not women. Not any more. What men are most afraid of is the body of another man. Men’s bodies are the most dangerous thing on earth.”
“In the gap between desire and enactment, noun and verb, intention and infliction, want, and have, compassion begins.”
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05/20 marked as: read

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