Moral Disorder: And Other Stories by Margaret AtwoodMoral Disorder: And Other Stories by Margaret Atwood

Moral Disorder: And Other Stories

byMargaret Atwood

Paperback | September 11, 2007

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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 Hardcover edition.
Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939, and grew up in northern Quebec and Ontario, and later in Toronto. She has lived in numerous cities in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. She is the author of more than forty books — novels, short stories, poetry, literary criticism, social history, and books for children. Atwood’s work is acclaime...
Title:Moral Disorder: And Other StoriesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 7.48 × 4.22 × 0.85 inPublished:September 11, 2007Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1400025044

ISBN - 13:9781400025046


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable A series of interconnected stories chained up to follow the ups and downs of three generations of a family. I enjoyed the fun facts of farm life the story depicted. I just went with the flow and forgot the turn of pages. Very enjoyable, though the last chapter of this book still eludes me
Date published: 2008-01-27

Read from the Book

An excerpt from “The Art of Cooking and Serving,” from Margaret Atwood’s Moral DisorderI'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 which we lacked.) It was necessary for him to be away, which was unfortunate, he continued. But he would not be gone for very long, and he was sure I would be up to it.I myself was not so sure. He always thought I knew more than I knew, and that I was bigger than I was, and older, and hardier. What he mistook for calmness and competence was actually fright: that was why I stared at him in silence, nodding my head. The danger that loomed was so vague, and therefore so large -- how could I even prepare for it? At the back of my mind, my feat of knitting was a sort of charm, like the fairy-tale suits of nettles mute princesses were supposed to make for their swan-shaped brothers, to turn them back into human beings. If I could only complete the full set of baby garments, the baby that was supposed to fit inside them would be conjured into the world, and thus out of my mother. Once outside, where I could see it -- once it had a face -- it could be dealt with. As it was, the thing was a menace.From the Hardcover edition.

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?

Editorial Reviews

The instant #1 national bestseller“Atwood’s meticulous stories exert a powerful centrifugal force, pulling the reader into a whirl of droll cultural analysis and provocative emotional truths. Gimlet-eyed, gingery, and impishly funny, Atwood dissects the inexorable demands of family, the persistence of sexism, the siege of old age, and the complex temperaments of other species (the story about the gift horse is to die for). Shaped by a Darwinian perspective, political astuteness, autobiographical elements, and a profound trust in literature, Atwood’s stories evoke humankind’s disastrous hubris and phenomenal spirit with empathy and bemusement.”— Booklist (starred review) “Crisp, vivid detail and imagery and a rich awareness of the unity of human generations, people and animals, and Nell’s own exterior and inmost selves, make Moral Disorder one of Atwood’s most accessible and engaging works yet.”— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)“This snapshot collection is a study of memory, to be cherished not just as an acute portrayal of family life, with all its possibilities and failings, but for revealing a little more of Atwood’s own struggle.”— The Times “Atwood [has an] impressive command of the art of short fiction. . . . Atwood’s approach, although minimalist, is powerful and her protagonist’s emotional history is a puzzle impatient to be unscrambled. . . . Atwood’s richly layered approach lends itself to the telling of truths. The events she sketches linger on the edge of revelations and allow readers to draw their own conclusions. The stories shift, with ease, from youth to age, from brash certainty to the moral ambiguity that defines her characters’ lives. . . . Skilfully crafted stories.”— London Free Press“An intriguing patchwork of poignant episodes. . . . Atwood provides a memorable mosaic of domestic pain and the surface tension of a troubled family.”— Publishers Weekly“Nuanced insights and ironies. . . . Atwood is the master of interior monologue — profound understanding is a given in Moral Disorder. . . . Beautifully intricate studies of the strange life story.”— Globe and Mail“Vintage Atwood: slyly operatic, playfully tenebrous and a touch of sanguinary. . . .”— Globe and Mail“Atwood does geography — emotional and physical — better than anyone. . . . Atwood is in top form as she sketches female guises and disguises: daughter, sister, lover, wife.”— Toronto Star“This is a book that, structurally as well as thematically, invites readers to experience the orderly and disorderly beginnings, endings and in betweens of a life.”— Observer“A model of distillation, precision, clarity and detail. . . . Within the collection's exceptional unity she explores the variety and flexibility of the short story in a manner not unlike Alice Munro’s in her longer narratives.”— The Independent“An elegant, nearly seamless narrative about a woman whose lifetime stretches from the 1930s to the present. The collection is a treat for fans and a worthy introduction for those who have not yet had the pleasure of her company. . . . In Moral Disorder, Atwood travels deep into the expanse of memories and language built up over her writing lifetime and offers a handful of gems to illuminate our times.”— Los Angeles Times“Margaret Atwood has always been an acute observer of women. . . . Crisp to the senses and compelling. . . . I was gripped throughout.”— Telegraph“Atwood is still a master of the compelling, peculiar portrait of human behavior.”— Entertainment Weekly“Classic Atwood. Unforgettable.”— January Magazine, Best Books of 2006“Powerful and distinctive.”— Times Literary Supplement“A fractured novel of particularly haunting and engaging beauty. . . .”— Books in Canada “Margaret Atwood balances the apparently random — disorderly — events and memories against the sense we all have that a life as a whole has its own shape, possibly a destiny. . . .This tale, like all these tales, is both grim and delightful, because it is triumphantly understood and excellently written.”— A.S. Byatt, Washington Post Book World“Atwood at her slyest and sweetest. There really is nobody like her.”— Ursula K. Le Guin, Guardian “Ingenious and perceptive. . . deserves to become a quiet classic.”— Spectator