Metro Recommends: Moral Disorder
I have another good book to tell you about--Margaret Atwood’s latest, Moral Disorder, is one more title to add to your reading list. Moral Disorder is a collection of short stories revolving around a central protagonist, Nell. The stories unfold in a circular fashion, starting with “The Bad News”, where we meet the aging Nell and Tig, thankful for their comfort and companionship in a world getting more and more dangerous. In “The Art of Cooking and Serving”, we’re taken back to Nell’s childhood as the eleven-year-old knits a layette for her unplanned little sister. Through Nell’s eyes we witness her mother struggle with a new baby while her other daughter enters puberty. We follow Nell through adolescence, and her twenties, to the years of her often complicated relationship with a man with two children and an eccentric, manipulative wife. In the title story, former city people Nell and Tig adjust to the challenging, rewarding, sometimes brutal life on a farm. In “The Labrador Fiasco”, a doomed expedition is a metaphor for the uncertain future of Nell’s father who has had a stroke. The circle is complete when Nell revisits her childhood with her elderly mother.
Most people either love Atwood or hate her. The more I read, the more I love her. If you’ve never read any Atwood and want to start, I’d recommend The Blind Assassin or Alias Grace. If you like short stories, Wilderness Tips is amazing. She also writes poetry; here’s one of my favourite poems:
You Fit Into Me
you fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye
Yeah, she’s not for everyone.
Atwood’s social commentary is ironic and astute. Her writing is biting, sometimes acerbic, often funny, always fascinating. It begs to be read more than once (or twice). She can be challenging, playful, puzzling: if you find yourself stopping and thinking what the hell is she saying, don’t worry, you’re not alone—you’re playing right into her hands.
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