Books: Life Studies BLUEBEARD'S EGG AND OTHER STORIES

Studies BLUEBEARD'S EGG AND OTHER STORIES by Margaret Atwood Houghton Mifflin; 281 pages; $16.95

Reading Margaret Atwood's short stories is like seeing life studies done by an artist famous for large, symbolic canvases. Absent are the extended metaphors that gave form to her earlier novels. The protagonist of An Edible Woman, for example, feels so cannibalized by the people in her life that she serves her fiance a bride made of sponge cake and icing, then flees from the altar. Gone too is Atwood's allegorizing. In last year's The Handmaid's Tale she offered a vision of America transformed into a Fundamentalist Christian theocracy.

Here Atwood is concerned with rapid and telling characterization, especially of men....

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