Monday, March 25, 2013

Reader's Diary #969- Margaret Atwood: Stone Mattress


(Pre-scheduled post to appear while I'm away in NYC.)

"Stone Mattress" by Margaret Atwood appeared in the New Yorker in 2011. It's mostly set on an Arctic cruise. Atwood herself has guest lectured aboard at least one arctic cruise, which I know because some old friends of mine guest lectured on the same voyage. I wasn't surprised to find that she had used some of that experience for a short story.

It's a bit on the schlocky side, a basic revenge story with a pretty implausible crime being committed. There are attempts to turn it into a more serious piece, with discussion of rape and female empowerment, but these are typical Atwood themes and so I'm not sure they warrant the same response as they would have if the reader wasn't expecting it. The "Stone Mattress" begins, "At the outset Verna had not intended to kill anyone" and I was eager to see this side of Atwood that cuts to the chase with such a pulpy hook. Atwood having some dark fun? This should be good. But when she gets to the rape part, the story suddenly slips into formulaic territory. Atwood- formula anyway. It's certainly still a relevant and serious topic that warrants discussion, but it felt like a fallback in this story. Like she was offering nothing new to the discussion than she hasn't offered countless times before.

I did, however, enjoy the title and Atwood's ingenious use of it in the story. So at least there was that and a cool setting.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

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