Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

Before my recent trip east, I had finished another book by Margaret Atwood…so, before I place it on the bookshelf, I thought I’d make a few notes.  This book, Moral Disorder, is a collection of interconnected narratives that span a number of decades.  Having heard Margaret Atwood speak at this year’s teacher’s convention, I feel that, again, some of the settings and characters are influenced by the writer’s own childhood and family.

It seems that I am writing on particular themes as I post today, among them, the idea of life snapshots.  This book, similarly, captures and sustains the experiences of childhood, parenting, celebration and grief through the development of various voices around Tig and Nell.  The context for me, demanded empathy, given a sense of the same collective nostalgia and life landmarks apparent in The History of Love.  The following excerpt, found here.

Dealing with her aging mother, watching her look at her photographs for the last time as she sinks into blindness, trying to tease her into remembering pieces of her past, Nell seems to be pre-visioning her own future. Though there is nothing overtly supernatural in this collection, the author has the art of weaving the teller into the tale and blending the characters into one another’s lives so that the end result is something magical.”

A.S. Byatt, in 2006, writes for the Washington Post, Times of Her Life.

“We are such stuff/ As dreams are made on,” says Prospero, “And our little life/ Is rounded with a sleep.” Moral Disorder is cunningly constructed of the vagaries of memory and is rounded by Alzheimer’s and forgetting. Nell, Tig and Nell’s sister test themselves for failing memory as they ruefully allow for failing knees. There is a moving, evocative story of Nell’s father, after a stroke, inhabiting a story Nell reads to him, of three explorers disastrously astray in Labrador. There is a plain and very sad tale of Nell’s mother, reduced to immobility, her memories slipping away, though living on, briefly, in a different form, in Nell’s own memories. The mother dreams a repeating dream of being lost, and no one, no thing, being there, only the empty sky and a logjam she tries to climb. This tale, like all these tales, is both grim and delightful, because it is triumphantly understood and excellently written. ·

 

A.S. Byatt is a writer of novels and stories. Her latest book is “Little Black Book Of Stories.”

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2 thoughts on “Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

  1. Atwood and Byatt – two of my heros (heroines?). I met and shook hands with Maggie when she spoke at a writer’s conference in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico and also when she was on a book tour for Oryx and Crake in Vancouver. Amazing woman and a true Canadian and world treasure – thanks for this post Kathleen…

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