Short Story Review – “Stone Mattress” by Margaret Atwood

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Margaret Atwood (image source)

 

“At the outset Verna had not intended to kill anyone.” That first line had me hooked right away. Not that I needed much prodding to read a story by the prolific Man Booker Prize winning author Margaret Atwood. I had heard so much praise about her works that I had been planning to read her novels for a while. However, when this short story came up instead, I pounced at the opportunity to get introduced to her work.

And what an introduction it has been! The story is about an elderly lady who goes on a cruise and happens to meet someone who brings back dark memories from her earlier life. She wonders if she should let things pass or not and after some deliberation, decides to take action.

The tale has its fair share of suspense and the reader empathises with Verna. The tale does have a definite end, but Verna and her motivations does make one pause and reflect on her actions of the present and the past. We are also left wondering whether justice was served and what the nature of justice is.

Not to say that the story isn’t funny. I found myself chuckling and grinning at more than one point. Perhaps this dark, macabre humour also contributes to why Atwood later clarified that she would like to categorise “Stone Mattress” not as a story but as a tale, in that it has a touch of the magical.

Although written back in December 2011, this story is absolutely relevant today in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Atwood shows the world not just the violence involved in sexual assault but also the emotions and challenges that survivors of sexual violence have to live with.

Read more about ‘Stone Mattress’ on Goodreads. Buy the book of short stories here.

Title: Stone Mattress: Nine Wicked Tales

Authors: Margaret Atwood

First published: 2014

No. of Pages: 320

Price: (Paperback) Rs. 460 / (Kindle) Rs. 346.92 (Amazon.in)

(Disclosure: If you buy books by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

 

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Book Review – “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

For some time now, I’ve been thinking of reading up on the topic of feminism. I’ve always believed in the equality of the sexes and strongly disapprove of any unfair action or behaviour that women have to put up with. But I had a couple of questions for myself: What precisely makes one a feminist? How do I show support to the idea of equality of the sexes?

In this powerful essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie answers those questions and more. Based on a TEDx talk she was invited to give, Chimamanda speaks about her own experiences while growing up in Nigeria and of some of her friends in Nigeria and America. These experiences, however, are Universal. Even as a man living in India, I found myself shaking my head at a couple of places, recalling the casual sexism that exists in our society.

This isn’t a scholarly work where the author enumerates the societal and economic costs of not treating men and women equally. This is a personal insight into the experienced injustices and frustrations that women all over the world have to deal with.

What is important to realise is that it would be foolish to assume that these do not affect the world of men. We share the same planet, remember?

My favourite part of the essay was when she listed one by one the reasons how we have over the years been normalising sexist behaviour, and follows that up with reasons why these justifications do not stand. “Why just feminism, why not human rights?”, “Look at the animal kingdom”, “But that is our culture” are some of the most commonly (and immensely flawed) arguments that people who do not want to challenge the status quo use. Like sexist behaviour, these justifications too seem to have a Universal presence.

In summary, this is a VERY important essay. I will argue that it is much more important that every *MAN* reads this essay than every woman. If we have to build a society whose culture is based on equality and meritocracy, we need to get the voices of women to be heard by the current establishment who will find it loath to let go of their comfortable seats.

Snippets:

  • “I am angry. We should all be angry.”
  • “There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women.” Legit thinking of writing a post titled “A man’s guide to pleasing women.”

Read more about “We Should All be Feminists” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: We Should All Be Feminists

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

First Published: 2014

Number of Pages: 64

Price: Paperback – Rs. 202 / Kindle – Rs. 148.15 (Amazon.in)

My Rating: 10 out of 10

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)