Short stories don’t appeal to me but when Margaret Atwood published a book of “Tales” I knew I would give it a go and I wasn’t disappointed. The first stories a tell about a group of artists and how their lives entwine. The erudite author had nothing but distain for his girlfriend’s fantasy stories even though those stories were paying the rent. Years later a student came to interview him but it turned out it wasn’t for his writing but it was for his former girlfriend’s writing whose books had spent a lot of time on the best seller lists. When he realized what was happening he was so angry his wife had to tell him “you can’t talk to women like that any more!” In the title story Verna, a woman who has killed several husbands, while on a cruise, meets a man from her past who has hurt and humiliated her and plans her revenge with a stone mattress. A scientist lecturing the cruise passengers explains, “the word comes from the Greek stroma, a mattress, coupled with the root word for stone. Stone mattress: a fossilized cushion, formed by layer upon layer of blue-green algae building up into a mound or dome. It was this very same blue-green algae that created the oxygen they are now breathing. Isn’t that astonishing?”
While not all excellent, the Tales in Stone Mattress are well worth the time.