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Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

Cat's Eye (original 1988; edition 1989)

by Margaret Atwood

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7,161116497 (3.93)1 / 496
Title:Cat's Eye
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Seal (1989), Edition: Seal ed, Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood (1988)


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English (111)  Swedish (2)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  All (116)
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To decide to enter the fictional world transposed by Atwood is to willingly expect to submerge yourself into her protagonist's psyche -- because that's the power of her work. Regardless, of how unwilling you think you may be to be drawn into her story and/or stories (I pluralize this because she usually has more layers than one), you will have no choice to either be hypnotized or embodied by her world because the voice of her narrative is always so strong.

When I say strong, I'm not referring to the tone of voice or the strength of the characters themselves---though this may very well be true of them---I'm referring to the power of her narrative because the voice she writes in---this inner dialogue---is able to excavate marvellous truths with such clarity, originality, and precision.

Atwood is able to write with not only keen insight and provocative subject matter, she isn't afraid to offend you with jarring, raw imagery, language, or context. It's intentional in so far as she deliberately resists being conformed by stereotypical ideas or dogmas. What you expect to happen in novels, in how characters are meant to evolve, does not happen in the same way in Atwood's work. The rest comes from a well of either brutal honesty and truth on the part of the writer or the complete professional wizardry performed in the "magic" that Atwood creates with the written word -- or both, except there are no tricks with Atwood.

Magic denotes supernatural forces that flow out from nowhere, giving neither its master control nor credit. Atwood's artistry is magical in that she cannot be duplicated or outshone. But her manipulation of the language, her word power and passion for it, and story writing and "showing" -- not "telling" is accurately and expertly devised. It is without a doubt, mostly due to her natural, gifted, and crafted talent. And of course, her dedication to doing the work. (Trust me, she did not pay me to say these things, nor do I say them in a vain hope that she will give me her autograph after a two-day line-up at a book festival and acknowledge me as more than one of the literary cretins who hopes to one day step in her very large, very pointy, red shoes. Okay, well...maybe a little.)

And I think that's part of the reason why she's just as resented superficially on a global scale as she is worshipped -- the fact that she has been reigned as an iconic, Canadian, female writer and artist. The irony here, is that her ambition, drive, and self-confidence is what probably brought her to the iconic stratosphere, and no doubt, her natural talent as well -- but this exact kind of attention and glorification is what Atwood, I think, abhors -- and yet at the same time, on some atomic level, demands.

But this inner requirement is not her focal point -- it's not the driving force in her writing or why I think she writes. It's the natural talent that compels her. Writing, for any good writer---for any writer worthy of being acclaimed as having an ounce or more of talent---is driven by compulsion.

The words must come out. The story must be written down. There are no extravagant plans or blueprints. There is no trickery or shortcuts. There is only always, the writer, the compulsion, the muses, and the white page -- and then the actual act of writing.

A good writer need not have "good" muses or even "many" muses. A good writer need only a supersonic ear to listen to the muse he/she has chosen as well as the inner rhythm of language -- but most importantly, a "seeing" eye that understands something regular Joes also know, but cannot articulate. A good writer is a translator of universal truths. A good writer understands this instinctively. A good writer cannot be taught or bred. A good writer can only be born -- and then ruthlessly working in solitude for many hours and years to sharpen his or her 1) craft, 2) pencils, and 3) ego.

A bad writer can read many guidebooks, attend writing classes, and "feel" accomplished. A bad writer can even get published (Oh, man -- a lot of bad writers are published, which would explain the amount of bad reviews). Nevertheless, a bad writer will always be a bad writer. And it isn't a matter of opinion or even my opinion. It simply is an undeniable fact.

You cannot teach talent. You cannot imitate authenticity. You cannot counterfeit gold and expect to get your dollars' worth. A bad writer cannot impersonate good writing. You cannot be a fraud. You either have it or you don't. And if you do, then it's not a matter of luck or literary providence -- it's a matter of tenacity, 10-inch-thick skin, and of course, a great agent.

And Atwood is one of the privileged few who have "it" all. (Maybe not the 10-inch-thick skin -- writers usually don't, we simply pretend to. I suspect Atwood has had a lot of training.) But, give her credit, too. She's worked hard to climb the iconic ladder. Many writers are born with this elusive "it," but don't have the confidence or the stamina needed to create the work required to actually be recognized by both the literary community and by those outside of it.

And she's resisted the stereotype that writers -- that artists, especially female writers, require self-deprecation, dramatic illnesses (mental or physical), a man, or a manic disposition that inevitably leads to suicide or mysterious death. She's resisted this because she's alive -- and well. How about that?

So kudos to you, Atwood. Have another glass of red wine. You've heard it all before. Yes, so your stories and your characters are dark, sombre, and cynical. I've even heard from other people, that your work is "downright depressing." Damn right, it is! But it is also intelligent, poetic, stark, and dead-on. All the good words worthy of praise. All the praises for your good words.

Maybe you are, too: dark, sombre, cynical, downright depressed. But, maybe you are the one character you continually re-invent in order to shape shift into who you need to be depending on the weather or your mood (or who is critiquing or interviewing you). Maybe you re-invent yourself not only in your stories, but in order to cover your scent from public reviewers and critics, like myself, who hunt you down with pigeonholes. I get it -- I think.

Writing is the most vulnerable art available. There is no separating the divide between the writer and the work -- because there isn't one.

No, there isn't.

Not even when its said to be fiction. All good writers know that fiction---good fiction---is truth. Somewhere hidden behind commas, periods, and exhilarated exclamation points, it'll hammer you on the head. That is, if you can read. (Sorry, the literary snob is me just gave me a drop-kick.)

You either love Atwood's work or hate it. For some of you, you won't even tolerate trying to understand it. But there is no in-between, no grey area, no fence to sit on. Atwood makes you choose.

And she does so, in her novel, "Cat's Eye."

(I'd go into slight detail "about" the story, but that's what I believe inside flaps are for. Okay, okay...I'll give you a hint:

Elaine Risley.

Go out, borrow or buy the book.

Borrow or buy all her books.
Be dazzled. Be star struck.
Be jealous.
I am. ( )
1 vote ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
The life of Elaine an artist and the events and people that shaped her life. Classic Atwood in tone and content. ( )
  kale.dyer | Jan 4, 2017 |
I liked this better than the other Atwood books I have read. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it's the most realistic one. Though Elaine Risley grew up a generation earlier than I did, I could relate to her and her childhood in a way that I wasn't able to relate to characters in her other novels. ( )
  leslie.98 | Sep 15, 2016 |
My Gosh I am reading 1 book a day these few past days. Just lying in bed and read read read. Yesterday I picked this book. it has been on my shelf for years and I finished it last night.

It is good but not near as good as Handmaid's tale but what i did notice that there is a lot to think about once you have read this book. There is a lot left in the air and once done it makes you wonder. I like that. ( )
  Marlene-NL | Mar 12, 2016 |
The portrayal of the child Elaine's isolation and alienation made it hard to put this down, hard to keep reading. ( )
  seschanfield | Mar 7, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Margaret Atwoodprimary authorall editionscalculated
Blaauw, Gerrit deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When the Tukanas cut off her head, the old woman collected her own blood in her hands and blew it towards the sun. "My soul enters you, too!" she shouted. Since then anyone who kills receives in his body, without wanting or knowing it, the soul of his victim.
—Eduardo Galeano
Memory of Fire: Genesis
Why do we remember the past, and not the future?
—Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time
This book is for S.
First words
Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.
An eye for an eye only leads to more blindness.
Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.
Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Controversial painter Elaine Risley vividly reflects on her childhood and teenage years. Her strongest memories are of Cordelia, who was the leader of a trio of girls who were both very cruel and very kind to young Elaine, in ways that tint Elaine's perceptions of relationships and her world—not to mention her art—into the character's middle years. The novel unfolds in Canada of the mid-20th century, from World War II to the late 1980s, and includes a look at many of the cultural elements of that time period, including feminism and various modern art movements.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385491026, Paperback)

Cat's Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman--but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat's Eye is a breathtaking novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:17 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

It is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to the city of her youth for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman--but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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