Okay, so this is the 3rd revision on this post. (I'm forming an "L" with my forefinger and thumb and holding it against my forehead.)
Along with Atwood’s essays on writing, I finished Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye. I enjoyed the book, but did not love it. I feel bad saying that. I feel like a jughead saying that. I don't feel particularly literate.
Don't get me wrong: The prose is exquisite. Every paragraph is a jewel, every chapter a collection. But at the end, a pattern didn’t emerge, a story wasn’t told. I was left with a handful of jewels.
The title refers to a certain kind of marble, an unordinary type, a prize that needs to be won:
The cat’s eyes are my favorites. If I win a new one I wait until I’m by myself, then take it out and examine it, turning it over and over in the light. The cat’s eyes really are like eyes, but not the eyes of cats. They’re the eyes of something that isn’t known but exists anyway; like the green eye of the radio; like the eyes of aliens from a distant planet. My favorite one is blue. I put it into my red plastic purse to keep it safe. I risk my other cat’s eyes to be shot at, but not this one.
Secrets – what is seen but not acknowledged, known but not discussed – seem to me to be at the heart of the novel; this paragraph, addressing an illegal abortion, emerged as the most sinister and deadly in a series of secrets observed or experienced by the narrator:
But what she’s done has set her apart. It belongs to the submerged landscape of the things that are never said, which lies beneath ordinary speech like hills under water. Everyone my age knows about it. Nobody discusses it. Rumors are down there, kitchen tables, money exchanged in secret; evil old women, illegal doctors, disgrace and butchery. Down there is terror.
Cat's Eye also, finally, refers to self-portrait painted by the narrator. This is just one of many references to sight and seeing -- and Shakespeare's three witches and colors and symbols and metaphors galore. Heaps of 'em. A glut.
I think I am tired, tired in a profound and ground-down sort of way. Must*recover*soon.
I’m glad I read Cat's Eye; I want to read more Atwood. But it was difficult to live with the peculiarly deadened tone and postmodern plotless plot for 461 pages.
Time to ditch heavy reading! In California, spring is in the air. Yellow daisies are blooming, some California poppies are already spreading their bright orange petals, and around twilight, a certain tree in Berkeley smells like gardenias dancing with honeysuckle. A little romance is in order.
So it was with a sort of stepping-off-the-treadmill relief that I turned to Jane Austen for my first book in a precious month of romantic reads. I initially selected Mansfield Park, but, as the introduction claimed it to be the “least popular” of Austen’s books, I immediately scuttled that in favor of Persuasion, which I finished over the weekend (along with half of a biography, Jane Austen by Claire Tomalin). These books, along with a bar of expensive chocolate and the studious ignoring of SuperBowl MXCMVI, initiated the lovefest in proper fashion.
I picked up a Victorian Oxford Classic on a bookstore dollar cart – can’t remember the title or author, but I do recall the words “violin,” “Victorian Paris,” and “affair” in the descriptor text. I think I’m in love already.