Moral Disorder: Novel

by ATWOOD MARGARET

McClelland & Stewart | December 15, 2008 | Hardcover

Moral Disorder: Novel is rated 3.5 out of 5 by 2.
Atwood triumphs with these dazzling, personal stories in her first collection since Wilderness Tips.

In these ten interrelated stories Atwood traces the course of a life and also the lives intertwined with it, while evoking the drama and the humour that colour common experiences — the birth of a baby, divorce and remarriage, old age and death. With settings ranging from Toronto, northern Quebec, and rural Ontario, the stories begin in the present, as a couple no longer young situate themselves in a larger world no longer safe. Then the narrative goes back in time to the forties and moves chronologically forward toward the present.

In “The Art of Cooking and Serving,” the twelve-year-old narrator does her best to accommodate the arrival of a baby sister. After she boldly declares her independence, we follow the narrator into young adulthood and then through a complex relationship. In “The Entities,” the story of two women haunted by the past unfolds. The magnificent last two stories reveal the heartbreaking old age of parents but circle back again to childhood, to complete the cycle.

By turns funny, lyrical, incisive, tragic, earthy, shocking, and deeply personal, Moral Disorder displays Atwood’s celebrated storytelling gifts and unmistakable style to their best advantage. This is vintage Atwood, writing at the height of her powers.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 240 pages, 8.4 × 5.8 × 0.9 in

Published: December 15, 2008

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771008708

ISBN - 13: 9780771008702

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Reviews

Rated 2 out of 5 by from Left me indifferent If you're expecting another "The Blind Assassin" or "Alias Grace" you will be disappointed. It is, of course, well written but it left me indifferent. Thankfully it's a short book so you don't waste too much time on it.
Date published: 2007-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A New Atwood Convert Not being the biggest Atwood fan, coming back to her fiction in recent years has been a treat, oddly enough. Starting with The Blind Asassin and continuing with The Penelopiad and The Tent, I have continued to be enchanted by her later works. Maybe Atwood is and her work is like a good wine? Best when aged. That brings me to Moral Disorder, her latest work. It's either a novel or a collection of stories, depending on how you look at it. All the stories are interconnected with the same main character. Only three four stories in (The Headless Horseman is thus far my favorite) I know I'm at the start of what is to be an amazing book. Buy it in hardcover. You won't be sorry.
Date published: 2006-09-09

– More About This Product –

Moral Disorder: Novel

by ATWOOD MARGARET

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 240 pages, 8.4 × 5.8 × 0.9 in

Published: December 15, 2008

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771008708

ISBN - 13: 9780771008702

Read from the Book

An excerpt from “The Art of Cooking and Serving,” from Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder I''d been told about the expectant state of my mother in May, by my father. It had made me very anxious, partly because I''d also been told that until my new baby brother or sister had arrived safely my mother would be in a dangerous condition. Something terrible might happen to her -- something that might make her very ill -- and it was all the more likely to happen if I myself did not pay proper attention. My father did not say what this thing was, but his gravity and terseness meant that it was a serious business. My mother -- said my father -- was not supposed to sweep the floor, or carry anything heavy such as pails of water, or bend down much, or lift bulky objects. We would all have to pitch in, said my father, and do extra tasks. It would be my brother''s job to mow the lawn, from now until June, when we would go up north. (Up north there was no lawn. In any case my brother wouldn''t be there: he was heading off to a camp for boys, to do things with axes in the woods.) As for me, I would just have to be generally helpful. More helpful than usual, my father added in a manner that was meant to be encouraging. He himself would be helpful too, of course. But he couldn''t be there all the time. He had some work to do, when we would be at what other people called the cottage but we called the island . (Cottages had iceboxes and gas generators and waterskiing, all of whi
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From the Publisher

Atwood triumphs with these dazzling, personal stories in her first collection since Wilderness Tips.

In these ten interrelated stories Atwood traces the course of a life and also the lives intertwined with it, while evoking the drama and the humour that colour common experiences — the birth of a baby, divorce and remarriage, old age and death. With settings ranging from Toronto, northern Quebec, and rural Ontario, the stories begin in the present, as a couple no longer young situate themselves in a larger world no longer safe. Then the narrative goes back in time to the forties and moves chronologically forward toward the present.

In “The Art of Cooking and Serving,” the twelve-year-old narrator does her best to accommodate the arrival of a baby sister. After she boldly declares her independence, we follow the narrator into young adulthood and then through a complex relationship. In “The Entities,” the story of two women haunted by the past unfolds. The magnificent last two stories reveal the heartbreaking old age of parents but circle back again to childhood, to complete the cycle.

By turns funny, lyrical, incisive, tragic, earthy, shocking, and deeply personal, Moral Disorder displays Atwood’s celebrated storytelling gifts and unmistakable style to their best advantage. This is vintage Atwood, writing at the height of her powers.

From the Jacket

“Her stories are sophisticated, reticent, ornate, stark, supple, stiff, savage or forgiving; they are exactly what she wants them to be. They are stories from the prime of life.”
— Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Margaret Atwood’s internationally bestselling fiction includes The Handmaid’s Tale, Wilderness Tips, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, The Penelopiad, and, most recently, The Tent. She has received numerous honours, including the Booker Prize, The Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award, the Premio Mondello in Italy, and Le Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. She lives in Toronto.

Editorial Reviews

“Her stories are sophisticated, reticent, ornate, stark, supple, stiff, savage or forgiving; they are exactly what she wants them to be. They are stories from the prime of life.”
— Times Literary Supplement

Bookclub Guide

1. Discuss the form and structure of the book. How was your reading affected by the fact that Moral Disorder is neither a novel nor a collection of freestanding stories? What freedoms does this form provide both the author and the reader? What was the impact of the shift in point of view from first person to third person? In what way did these shifts correspond to the shifts in Nell’s life?

2. A starred review of Moral Disorder appearing in Kirkus Reviews describes Nell as “a freelance journalist and sometime teacher whose eventual commitment to writing seems born of the secrets and evasions into which a lifetime of relationships and responsibilities propels her.” What is your understanding of Nell’s impulse as a writer? In what way does being a writer shape her approach to the world around her?

3. How did you first interpret Tig’s news that “they just killed the leader of the interim governing council” in “The Bad News”? How did you respond to the narrator’s frustrated musings on Tig’s words, and on the violent history of the world?

4. Why does the narrator find Sarah Field Splint’s domestic ideals so appealing in “The Art of Cooking and Serving”? How does she feel about the maid shown in the photographs, in daytime and more formal dress? When you were a teenager, where did you look for role models and fantasies about your future?

5. What accounts for the sisters’ tremendous differences in “The Headless Horseman”? How did their mother address these differences? How did their perceptions of her, and of each other, change throughout their lifetimes?

6. In “My Last Duchess,” what personal woes do the narrator and her boyfriend project onto the poem? Obtain a copy of this Robert Browning classic and read it as a group. Whose interpretation do you favor? Was the duchess a victim, or a tart? Would the count have been concerned about his daughter’s fate?

7. What does the narrator want from a home and a city in “The Other Place”? How is she changed by her encounters with Owen?

8. How would you characterize Oona, who is introduced in “Monopoly”? As “governess,” should Nell have let the boys win at games? How did she adapt to the other new worlds to which Tig introduced her?

9. What meaning did you ascribe to the title of the featured story, “Moral Disorder”? Did you think of disorder in terms of disarray, or in terms of a malfunction or medical condition? In the title story, what morality does Nell find or not find in nature, from the profusion of crops to the demise of the lamb in the ending? How does the title apply to the collection as a whole?

10. Do Lizzie and Gladys share common ground in “White Horse”? What allows Lizzie to become freed from misdiagnosis and saved from attempted suicide? Why couldn’t Gladys be rescued?

11. What was the real reason Nell felt compelled to house Oona in “The Entities”? In the closing lines of this story Atwood writes, “In the end, we’ll all become stories. Or else we’ll become entities. Maybe it’s the same.” What entities have you left behind in various houses?

12. In “The Labrador Fiasco” the story of the doomed explorers sets an ominous tone as the narrator’s father copes with life after a stroke. She concludes the story by saying he is right to doubt her skill. What universal emotions are captured here, as parents reach the point of needing their children to become their guides?

13. In “The Boys at the Lab," we are told that the narrator’s mother only allows happy endings. How would you characterize the ending of her story? What is the significance of the book’s closing image—the memory of the aristocratic Indian venturing into raw wilderness?

14. Compare Moral Disorder to the Atwood fiction you have read previously. Are there traces of her signature themes, such as dystopia or violated trusts, in these stories? What new territory does this collection chart?

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