Friday, June 3, 2016

Book Review: Bluebeard's Egg

A Fair Trade Book 

Title: Bluebeard’s Egg

Author: Margaret Atwood

Author's web site:

Date: 1983

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin / Ballantine

ISBN: 0-449-21417-6

Length: 323 pages

Quote: “Sally is in love with Ed because of his stupidity.”

(An earlier version of this review appeared at Associated Content.) In the title story, there’s more to Ed than Sally has let herself notice, or wants to know. However, Ed’s depths aren’t as slimy as those of Becka, whose ex-husband is compulsively promiscuous but still managed to fall in love, such as he can, with a woman worse than himself. Then there’s Loulou, an earth-mother type who knows some people would think she’s being exploited but finds that she’d rather go on being exploited than be liberated their begins to trace, in this book, some echoes of Atwood’s having been too intelligent and independent to fit into the hive-mind that was 1970s left-wing feminism.

Different people relate to different literary forms; I like most people’s nonfiction better than their fiction,and although I do like Atwood's fiction I like either her novels or her short-short pieces better than these longish short stories. All the main characters in these stories, including the teenagers, are actively heterosexual and we’re told too much about their sex lives in proportion to their cerebral, emotional, or spiritual lives to suit me. I feel as if I’ve been listening to the chatter of a lot of vulgar people I’d never want to talk to. It’s not that the sex in these stories is obscenely detailed, or that Atwood’s novels are all about children or nuns; it’s a matter of proportion. These characters do things—they fall out of boats, they get lost on tours, they raise children—but mostly they rut. All the deciding moments when they choose between hope and despair, self-respect and self-destruction, good and evil, understanding and stupidity, seem to take place in bed. 

Also, less than halfway through the book, I’m grossed out by the evil of Becka; if it's possible to imagine an ex-wife worse than my husband's, Becka would be it.

However, many people whose sense of proportion may be different from mine have liked this collection, so perhaps you will too. Characters, dialogue, and plot lines are plausible; once in a while Atwood's irrepressible wit flashes up. As short story collections go, this one's not unworthy of the author of Alias Grace.

Margaret Atwood is alive and Twittering (@margaretatwood) so this is a Fair Trade Book, which means you can buy it here for $5 per book + $5 per package, of which we'll send $1 to Atwood or a charity of her choice. You could squeeze six or even eight copies of Bluebeard's Egg (for $35 or $45, total, respectively) into one package; I wouldn't count on being able to add much more than one copy of Bluebeard's Egg to a package with Alias Grace, a book of size and substance. Browsing her web site is recommended. Atwood is a true polymath in the classical tradition; she's written dozens of books in all genres, drawn pictures, invented an electronic gadget (the "Long Pen"), inspired the design of an "Edible Woman" cookie, and, recently, inspired a beer. This web site does not sell or recommend beer, even if it's inspired (and approved) by a living author, but this web site does sell and recommend Atwood's books; we'll track down every title and send the author a dollar (or more) for each one, if you'll let us.