Clever tales about writers, lovers and other weirdos.
This, explains Atwood in the acknowledgements, is a book of tales, not stories, which means that it's removed "at least slightly from the realm of mundane works and days"; you could say the same about most of the 40-plus preceding works from this playful, sharp-edged and politically alert author, now 74 (MaddAddam, 2013, etc.). Many of the characters in this collection are no longer young, but their situations, and the sentences that describe them, are fresh and vigorous, including descriptions of sex acts and profanity as necessary—don't let the old-lady thing fool you. The first three tales, which are the highlight of the book, feature aging writers and their bohemian circle, interweaving funerals and ghostly conversations with accounts of old conquests and betrayals. "Young Constance felt very lucky to have been taken up by Gavin, who was four years older than she was and knew a lot of other poets, and was lean and ironic and indifferent to the norms of society and grimly satirical, as poets were then. Perhaps they're still like that. Constance is too old to know." Video games, trendy literary criticism and Dropbox (is that an "indoor catpoo station"?) all play a role. "The Dead Hand Loves You" considers another writer late in his career. Young Jack sold shares in his fledgling novelistic effort to his roommates to pay his rent but decades later will do anything (yes) to get them back. The revenge theme continues in "Stone Mattress," in which a woman meets her erstwhile date rapist on an Alaskan cruise and he doesn't even recognize her. Fun to learn in the endnote that Atwood and her husband, Graeme Gibson, started this story as a way to entertain their fellow passengers on an Adventure Canada yacht.
Up to her old tricks and not dropping a card.