Sunday, March 23, 2008
Dangerously Reading v. 3
I'm plugging right along in my Dangerously Reading Challenge. I loved this month's selection--Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood.

Even though the book took me forever to get through, I loved it. I wish I had been able to devote more consistent reading time to the book as I fear I missed subtle things here and there. And at 400+ pages, I won't be reading it again any time soon.

As you might suspect, 400 pages allows for lots of material to be covered. This book is a feminist land mine. Atwood takes on bullying, mother/daughter relationships, motherhood, marriage, depression and problems with the second wave feminist movement. WOW. You will think hard throughout this book. You will feel both sympathy with and anger at, Elaine, the narrator. You will struggle with the biases you bring to the story. But mostly, you'll ponder gender expectations and the pressure they place on women. The social criticism is so poignant that, at times, you forget that you're reading a beautifully written novel.

This was my first interaction with Margaret Atwood. It was fantastic. I can't wait to read her other fiction. She is a must-read for feminists. Perhaps my favorite part of her style is how flawed her characters are but her writing is free from judgment. She relays stories of failed marriages, bullying, poor mothering and does it without deeming actions good/bad or right/wrong. Rather, she opens up our minds and allows us to contemplate the *why* behind individual choices. That contemplation reveals that often people are limited in the choices they *can* make.

Some notable passages:

I am very curious about the BOYS door. How is going in through a door different if you're a boy?...The boys don't have a separate classroom, they're in with us. They go in the BOYS door and end up the same place we do. I can see the point of the boys' washroom, because they pee differently, and also the boys' yard, because of all the kicking and punching that goes on among them. But the door baffles me. I would like to have a look inside.

Now that I'm more or less safe from him, and him from me, I can recall him with fondness and even in some detail, which is more than I can say for several others. Old lovers go the way of old photographs, bleaching out gradually as in a slow bath of acid: first the moles and pimples, then the shadings, then the faces themselves, until nothing remains but the general outlines. What will be left of them when I'm seventy? None of the baroque ecstasy, none of the grotesque compulsion. A word or two, hovering in the inner emptiness. Maybe a toe here, a nostril there, or a mustache, floating like a little curl of seaweed among the other flotsam.

"What's with her?" says the painter. "She's mad because she's a woman." Jon says. This is something I haven't heard for years, not since high school. Once it was a shaming thing to say, and crushing to have it said about you, by a man. It implied oddness, deformity, sexual malfunction. I go to the living room doorway. "I'm not mad because I'm a woman," I say. "I'm mad because you're an asshole."

Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It's like the tide going out, revealing whatever's been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is not the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future. The ruin you've made.

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Blogger QuakerDave said...

Three words for you:

The Robber Bride.

My favorite Atwood.

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