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The Tent (Book Review)

I started reading this collection of short stories by Margaret Atwood during my break at work, and then proceeded to carry it around with me for the next week. Each piece within “The Tent” is only a few pages long, but most of the pieces seem on par with a full book as far as literary clout goes. The topics range all over the place, with some of the short stories’ narrators seeming to be coming straight from the heart of Atwood’s person herself:

“I was given a voice. That’s what peoples said about me. I cultivated my voice, because it would be a shame to waste such a gift. I pictured this voice as a hothouse plant, something luxuriant, with glossy foliage and the word tuberous in the name, and a musky scent at night. I made sure the voice was provided with the right temperature, the right degree of humidity, the right ambiance. I soothed it’s fears; I told it not to tremble. I nurtured it, I trained it, I watched it climb up inside my neck like a vine…

My voice was courted, Bouquets were thrown to it. Money was bestowed on it…. my voice would thrive only for a certain term. Then, as voices do, it would begin to shrivel. Finally it would drop off, and I would be left alone, denuded- a dead shrub, a footnote…

It’s begun to happen, the shriveling, Only I have noticed it so far. There’s the barest pucker in my voice, the barest wrinkle. Fear has entered me, a needleful of ether, constricting what in someone else would be my heart.”

Another of the pieces within “The Tent” details a narrator speaking about future plans:

“I’ve decided to encourage the young. Once I wouldn’t have done this, but now I have nothing to lose. The young are not my rivals. Fish are not the rivals of stones. So I will encourage them open-handedly…

…the newly conscious young I mean, the ones with ambition and fresh diffidence, those who’ve learned the hard way that reach exceeds grasp nine times out of ten. How disappointed they are! And if and when they succeed for the first time, how anxious it makes them! They develop insomnia, or claustrophobia, or bulimia, or fear of heights. Now they will have to live up to themselves. Bummer.

Here I am, happy to help! I’ll pass round the encouragement, a cookie’s worth for each.”

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© Copyright 2018 Annie Windholz

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe —

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