Atwood (The Robber Bride, 1993, etc.) is always at her worst when her acerbic sneer overwhelms other elements, and there is barely room for anything else in these short-short works. With the laundry-list mentality usually reserved for dead authors, this collection gathers up pieces that have appeared in magazines and earlier collections and simply regroups them according to a criterion that has more to do with brevity than quality. Most lack structure and read like beginning ideas rather than finished stories. Some try to turn fairy tales around, but they tend to be unfocused. In "Unpopular Gals," an "ugly stepsister" rails against fairy-tale conventions like well-behaved daughters and the fact that "there are never any evil stepfathers." In "There Was Once," the narrator tries to write a fairy tale but keeps backtracking to avoid sounding "passe" and inaccurate. "Women's Novels" also attempts literary revisionism, but its stabs at humor are blunt ("Women's novels leave out parts of the men as well. Sometimes it's the stretch between the belly button and the knees, sometimes it's the sense of humor"). "Making a Man" gives instructions for just that, and again, jokes about making males out of marzipan and gingerbread do not go any deeper. "Happy Endings" fares a little better with a list of possible scenarios for a love relationship, prefaced by the warning to read only the first "If you want a happy ending," but it is the exception among smug fluff like the poem "Let Us Now Praise Stupid Women" ("all those who dry their freshly shampooed poodles in the microwave") and "Liking Men," an examination of men and their parts that veers far off-track. Atwood has clearly grasped the differences between men and women, but her mistake lies in believing that she is the only one who has. Readers will resent paying what averages out to about ten dollars per hour for this.