The Tent

by Margaret Atwood

Hardcover, 2007




New York: Anchor Books, 2007


One of the world's most celebrated authors, Margaret Atwood has written a collection of smart and entertaining fictional essays, in the genre of her previous books Good Bones and Murder in the Dark. Chilling and witty, prescient and personal, delectable and tart, these highly imaginative tales tackle a broad range of subjects, reflecting the times we live in with deadly accuracy and knife-edge precision. Punctuated with wonderful illustrations by the author, they are vintage Atwood.

User reviews

LibraryThing member goose114
There were definitely some good selections in this collection of short stories and poems, but overall, this was a mediocre book. There were a few pieces that I think would have benefited from being fleshed out a little more and there were others that I think could have been omitted all together.
LibraryThing member LoveAtFirstBook
The Tent by Margaret Atwood, which helps to fulfill my Project Atwood requirement. The Tent is a short book filled with super short stories (2 pages usually, sometimes less). I have to say I have mixed feelings on these. The book is split up into 3 sections, and I enjoyed the second section the best. The first section I just didn’t understand.

But I did enjoy some of the satirical quotes from the stories. Here are some of my favorites:

“No more photos. Surely there are enough. No more shadows of myself thrown by light onto pieces of paper, onto squares of plastic.” – p. 25

“You’re not my real parents, every child has thought. I’m not your real child. But with orphans, it’s true. What freedom, to thumb your nose authentically!” – p. 29

“What are we do to? The child sex trade is not for us: our children are unattractive and rude, and – due to the knowledge of our history – have a bad habit of mugging prospective customers and shoving them over cliffs.” – p. 60

The Tent is super short and a very quick read, so if you’re a huge Atwood fan, check it out. Some of the stories were great, some were bizarre.

Have you read them? What do you think?

Thanks for reading,

Rebecca @ Love at First Book
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LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
This collection of ministories is surprising by its variety. Some are humorous, others cynical, poetic or hopeful. A great read for the bus when snapshots can be easily absorbed.
LibraryThing member rmckeown
A publisher’s blurb on the back cover of the paperback edition calls this book “A delightfully pointed mélange of fictional pieces.” But I disagree. These short – sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always poignant – pieces are far too poetic to deserve the title of “fictional pieces.”

I love Margaret Atwood. I have loved her since I read The Handmaid’s Tale some 20 plus years ago. I loved her when I drove six hours in an old, beat-up Chevy toting a pile of books to hear her read at the Harvard Book Store Café in Boston. She graciously signed all eight, and she smiled, and she thanked me, and I loved her more.

Shamefully, I have not read much by her the last couple of years, but The Tent is the first step in remedying that situation. This slim volume contains so many of her thoughts and musings, her streams of consciousness, so much of her humor, her intelligence, I hardly know where to begin describing anything on these pages.

My favorite piece is the eponymous entry, and it begins:

“You’re in a tent. It’s vast and cold outside, very vast, very cold. It’s a howling wilderness…But you have a candle in your tent. You can keep warm” (143).

“The trouble is, your tent is made of paper. Paper won’t keep anything out. You know you must right on the walls, on the paper walls, on the inside of your tent. You must write upside down and backwards, you must cover every available space on the paper with writing” (144).

“Wind comes in, your candle tips over and flares up, and a loose tent-flap catches fire, and through the widening black-edged gap you can see the eyes of the howlers, red and shining in the light from your burning paper shelter, but you keep on writing anyway because what else can you do?” (146).

I guess the paper tent could not protect her from fans toting bags of books either. Get this book and read it now. That’s an order! 5 stars.

--Jim, 6/21/09
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LibraryThing member kaelirenee
Atwood has been my favorite author for over a decade, so this book was a must read for me. It was also a huge disappointment. Some of the stories in her book sounded more like short stories written by highschool students trying to sound clever. Some were very good, though, some were even funny (especially the "Three books I'll never write" one. Most of the stories center around aging, coming to terms with getting older, how age changes views in history, etc. There are a small handful of gems in here, but not enough to make me want to recommend it. This certainly shouldn't be any reader's first trip into her writing, or them may never want to return.… (more)
LibraryThing member Cait86
The Tent is a slim, 155 page volume of short stories - sketches, really - and a few poems, all of which demonstrate an Atwood who is at the top of her game. These pieces aren't long; most are only two or three pages. In such a short space, Atwood still manages to make the reader think, really think, about life. She comments on childhood and youth, on aging, on writing, and on numerous other topics - yet she manages to somehow link them all together into a collection that makes sense.

The titular story comes near the end of the book, and it makes the preceding pages all make sense. Here, Atwood writes about writing; the reason for writing, the drive to write, and the futility of writing. It is one of the most effective pieces in The Tent, and the one that I immediately reread.

This is a book that, after reading once, I know I will look to periodically for inspiration. It furthers my admiration for Atwood, and shows that a book does not have to be hundreds of pages to make you think.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
Wildly uneven collection of fictional essays. Atwood's a great writer, but a lot of these feel to me like warm-up exercises rather than finished products. The long poem about Mom is heart-wrenching, and the essay "Our Cat Enters Heaven" is hilarious. Interesting and kind of like peeking into your favorite painter's sketchbook.
LibraryThing member lydia1879
I adored this book.

It was the second Margaret Atwood novel I'd read (the first being A Handmaid's Tale, which I didn't enjoy so much, but I had to read it for school and we did it to death) and my faith in her as an excellent writer was completely restored.

This is a book of short, short stories and somehow even though they're only a couple of pages long, they pack a punch. They conjure up lots of emotions and I was so impressed by Atwood's ability to craft these words. She's an absolute wordsmith.

This edition is really nice as well, the book itself is really small and has red endpapers and a red bookmark. I flew through this book and thankfully rediscovered Margaret Atwood after my high school experience and fell in love with her all over again.

If you're looking for something short, sweet and a little bit brooding, I would definitely recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member amaraduende
Fantastical essays, musings, short-short stories, and at least one poem. Strange, funny at times, though-provoking.
LibraryThing member GraceZ
This is a great collection of very very short... Musings. Some are essays, some are poems, but the majority are what I might call musings. And they are fascinating.

The ones that stuck out for me were "The Animals Reject Their Names", a poem which details a sort of un-creation; "Take Charge", which undresses several similar situations through analogy and renders them somehow ridiculous, and somehow meaningful; and "Faster", less than a page long, which is perfectly applicable to our adaptation of technology, and is almost Luddite, but manages not to be.

This is a book to own, I think - I got it at the library but I might buy it anyway. It's one I think I will think about and want to revisit. Plus, it's not the best type of book to read quickly - it would be nicer to muse over each piece individually.
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LibraryThing member Vivl
I don't remember details, but I credit these stories with bringing me back to Margaret Atwood after many years. I read Surfacing at uni and really liked it but did not pick up another Atwood until spying this slim collection on the discount wrack while on holidays.

This collection began slowly, leaving me feeling a little disconnected and unimpressed, but not for long. At some point, fairly early on, the writing got a hold of me and didn't let go.… (more)
LibraryThing member claudiabowman
A few really stand-out stories and a few groaners.
LibraryThing member mrosol
Atwood's little gems of images, words and ideas enclosed in a collection of 30 terse fictional essays.
LibraryThing member Cassandra2020
Always difficult to write anything about short stories especially when some of them are only a couple of pages long. Nevertheless, on the whole they were sharp & witty and, of course, well written. All very much in the author's usual style: she has strong opinions on man's impact on the planet and a lot of the stories had this as an underlying (actually sometimes quite blatant) theme.

Very enjoyable, very quick to read, but better if interspersed with other reading matter or they all blur together and you don't get the impact.
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LibraryThing member steadfastreader
Excellent short stories. I'm not completely sure but I think this is early Atwood, so she isn't necessarily at her best, but she's so awesome she doesn't always have to be.
LibraryThing member mawls
Atwood's style of writing always gets me. It was interesting to re-read a couple of the "chapters" and get different perspectives. I appreciate how she tells the everyday story in a different light. A lot of this book deals with world problems, but on a microcosmic scale. Lots to make you think.
LibraryThing member mirikayla
Favorites: "The Animals Reject Their Names and Things Return to Their Origins," "Take Charge," "Horatio's Version," "The Tent," "But It Could Still." And Margaret Atwood's illustrations are fantastic. I would love to have the ones for "Voice" or "Salome Was a Dancer" framed.
LibraryThing member barrettlucero
Some very interesting and lovely mini-essays, and some a little tedious, even at their small size. A nice break and worth the time.
LibraryThing member eilonwy_anne
This is a collection of microfictions, prose poems, and other oddities. In it Atwood ventriloquizes mythical beings, tells the other sides of stories, spins vast symbolic tales of ruin, and even seems to directly address the reader.

Basically, it's 155 pages of really good random stuff by Margaret Atwood. As if Atwood had a blog. And be honest. If Atwood had a blog, wouldn't you read it?… (more)
LibraryThing member VivienneR
This is Atwood at her best, reflective, with a touch of acerbic humour, and a little cynical in places. Not actually stories, more like ideas, vignettes, all of them clever and thought-provoking. As expected some sparkled, some merely glowed but there are no duds. It's a slim book yet not to be read in one or two sessions, but rather to be dipped into and savoured in individual bites. I started noting favourites but the list got too long. These were at the top of the list: Encouraging the Young; Gateway; Our Cat Enters Heaven; Chicken Little Goes Too Far; and best of all, The Tent.… (more)
LibraryThing member mrstreme
Witty, enlightening, entertaining and sometimes confusing, The Tent by Margaret Atwood was a collection of essays and prose with that famous Atwoodian look at life. Each essay stood individually as its own; however, one can sense a theme of self-exploration and concern for the state of “humanness” throughout all of the stories.

Admittedly, several of the pieces went right over my head, but overall, most were succinct but profound. My favorite essay was one about cat heaven, where a family cat died, met God and asked if he could catch the “mice” in the field. God corrected the cat, saying they were actually human souls that he should capture and torture as long as he can: “Our heaven is their hell, said God. I like a balanced universe.” (page 65). Perhaps it’s my dry humor, but I found that line laugh-out-loud funny (perhaps because I have cats who love to play with my head here on earth).

The Tent is a nice companion book to Atwood’s fiction, revealing another side to the dynamic writing of Margaret Atwood. This is a must-read for Atwood fans.
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LibraryThing member thioviolight
Beautiful writing from Margaret Atwood, and one couldn't expect anything less. Her words moved me to tears on several pieces and my favorites from this collection include the painfully beautiful Bring Back Mom: An Invocation, But It Could Still, and Gateway.
LibraryThing member justine28
‘The Tent’ is a collection of short stories and poems by a Canadian author Margaret Atwood. It’s divided into 3 chapters, out of which I found Chapter 2 the most enjoyable and Chapter 1 the most bizarre. Well written stories, some truly captivating, but also some I didn’t get at all or didn’t care for much. Altogether a rather good short (150+ pages) read.
My favourite stories are: Winter’s Tales, Our Cat Enters Heaven, Post-Colonial, Faster, Eating the Birds, Nightingale, But It Could Still.
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