Joan Foster is the bored wife of a myopic ban-the-bomber. She takes off overnight as Canada's new superpoet, pens lurid gothics on the sly, attracts a blackmailing reporter, skids cheerfully in and out of menacing plots, hair-raising traps, and passionate trysts, and lands dead and well in Terremoto, Italy. In this remarkable, poetic, and magical novel, Margaret Atwood proves yet again why she is considered to be one of the most important and accomplished writers of our time.
If Atwood keeps a journal, perhaps some of the brief selections in this slender volumepostmodern fairy tales, caustic fables, inspired parodies, witty monologuescome from that source. The 35 entries offer a sometimes whimsical, sometimes sardonic view of the injustices of life and the battles of the sexes. Such updated fairy tales as ``The Little Red Hen Tells All'' (she's a victim of male chauvinism) and ``Making a Man'' (the Gingerbread man is the prototype) are seen with a cynical eye and told in pungent vernacular. ``Gertrude Talks Back'' is a monologue by Hamlet's mother, a randy woman ready for a roll in the hay, who is exasperated with her whiny, censorious teenage son. Several pieces feature women with diabolical intentionswitches, malevolent goddesses, etc. There are science fiction scenarios, anthropomorphic confessionals (``My Life as a Bat''), and an indictment of overly aggressive women that out-Weldons Fay Weldon. While each of these entries is clever and sharply honed, readers will enjoy dipping into them selectively; a sustained reading may call up an excess of bile. Atwood has provided striking black-and-white illustrations.