Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Review: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

[Since I am thinking about doing book blogging I decided to copypasta my most recent Goodreads review here. Let me know if this is interesting or not.]

Cat's EyeCat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn't the kind of book that I would expect to be "my kind of book", besides the fact that I am a fan of Atwood's wit, but wit is pretty general and this book is about a girl's life and it isn't about much else more on the surface and that description makes it sound like a really ordinary read but I found that as I read it I kept mentioning it to people over and over and if all those people got together and compared notes then they would think I was a loser who only talked about one book, so I guess that is evidence that it was a very meaningful read for me.

There is a lot of imagery and juxtaposition and allusion and so forth, that means it's good and all, you know. This one chapter toward the end reminded me of Don DeLillo, and he kind of has a similar wit sometimes, so if you like him maybe you'll like this book, maybe not.

Anyway it is kind of like a biography taken apart and retold out of time, which I feel like is kind of a metaphor for book-reading as a whole, and that is a part of why I really liked it, it explored the medium as a whole in an insightful way while not actually being meta- because it's not about books, it's actually about a woman who is a painter, which is completely different, but it really isn't because time doesn't exist in a painting either, and that's what the book does, it removes time from her life to mitigate the order of the story and turn the story from a temporally structured event into more like a portrait, and that's why she's a painter.

But Atwood is more than just some postmodern wank who does nothing but be meta- in whatever way or whatever, the story isn't just some exploration of medium or whatever I just said. It also happens to be a damn good story that kept me engrossed the whole time, and made me care about the characters and wonder at their mysteries and feel what they feel, which is an accomplishment in itself, but I shouldn't have to say that.

So that's two levels that Cat's Eye works on and those are good levels to talk about and I should probably leave it at that because the other big level it works on is one that I try not to talk about because I am afraid of what people think of me and that level is "feminism". The character struggles with her identity in several ways and identity as a whole is explored a bunch, but one part of her identity is that of a feminist or not, and I don't really talk about feminism. I think that I agree with Atwood or with her character or whoever if the book can be said to have something to agree or disagree with; that no matter what you try to be there will be people who don't think that you are it enough, and this theme is repeated throughout. You aren't a real girl because only own one dress. You're not a real painter because you take jobs painting advertisements. You aren't a real feminist because you aren't a lesbian. I mean I am totally OK with calling little girls judgmental and people will probably be OK with that, but if I start applying that word to feminists then I could probably get stoned next time I go outside, so I guess I should come up with a different word. But I'm at a loss and what I really want to do is not describe groups like "feminists" and instead just say "all people" because it's not a failing of feminism, it's a failing of humanity, to judge someone's identity as "not enough". So I think we should stop that and that is part of what I got out of this book.

I hope this !review is tolerable, I tried to focus on sharing what I learned without really focusing on writing a proper review but maybe I failed in one way.

View all my reviews


  1. I tried to read a Margaret Atwood book once, but I didn't get very far. She kind of reminds me of John Updike (or the particular book I read did) in that she focuses on details of day to day life too much for me. But I think you did a good reading of this book.

  2. @heidenkind Do you remember which book it was? This one and The Haidmaid's Tale are the only two I've read. You are right though, there are lots of daily life details.

  3. I think it was The Handmaid's Tale but I'm not entirely sure.