Wilderness Tips


247 pages
ISBN 0-7710-0819-8
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is an editor in the College Division of Nelson Canada.


Despite their appearance in publications as diverse as The New Statesman
and Playboy, the 10 stories in Wilderness Tips abound with familiar
Atwoodian themes. The title recalls Atwood’s seminal work of literary
criticism, Survival, and indeed the major characters in this collection
try to survive and transcend the chaos of their present lives by
imposing order and coherence on their tangled pasts.

Memory as a survival tool is not so readily available to Atwood’s
child characters, who find their literal perspectives at constant odds
with the careless euphemisms that permeate the adult world. Susanna in
“Uncles” is told that her father has been “lost in the war” and
imagines him “wandering around somewhere . . . trying to find his way
home.” The reconstruction of childhood by an adult is perhaps most
brilliantly rendered in the haunting “Death by Landscape,” in which
the author’s finely wrought observations of camp life blend seamlessly
with the inexplicable disappearance of a young camper.

Fans of Atwood’s trademark scathing humor will particularly relish
the sly and devastating portraits of media icons Robert Fulford and Roy
Megarry in “Uncles” and “Hack Wednesday,” respectively, and the
unabashed shock effects of “Hairball,” a tale that reputedly had a
New Yorker editor reaching for the smelling salts.


Atwood, Margaret., “Wilderness Tips,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/12069.