Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Margaret Atwood's "The Bad News" (short story, alternate history): A cynic's reaction to daily dose of bad news in morning papers

God reading while it lasted, but familiarity with French & Roman history will may be add to comprehension of subtleties.

Story summary.

Story is a cynic's reaction to bad news the morning newspapers are harbingers of; narrator is the woman partner of an old couple.

Midway through the story, narration shifts to Glanum, France - "before it was destroyed in the third century". Same couple - we don't know if they were planted in this France via a time machine or just in their imagination. Husband there is a retired Roman soldier. And, of course, bad news arrives in the mornings here too - in this time & place. Like "The barbarians are invading. They've crossed the Rhine." Reader presumably knows these "barbarians" will destroy Glanum, but reaction of the couple is still typical: "Even if they manage to cross the Rhine... they won't get here for a long time. Not in our lifetime, perhaps. Glanum is in no danger, not yet."

Fact sheet.

First published: Playboy (US), July 2006.
Rating: B.