Okay first off—what a kickass cover, right? I firmly believe that the book cover is the birthmark of a book and this one endures over time, it’s immediately recognized as Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye and could never be confused with anything else.
When I started reading this book it was a face-palm moment—“Why did I wait so long to read this?” But as I continued, I realized that now was my time to read it. I know I would’ve loved it no matter when I read it just cuz it’s my kind of book to gobble up and belch with perfect contentment later, but this was the right time in my life to read it because at 52 it has a more explicit resonance than it would have when I was 26 when I first saw it on the shelves of the bookstores that I haunted/ worked for at the time. Margaret Atwood’s work always stuns me anyway—
I see that there will be no end to imperfection, or to doing things the wrong way. Even if you grow up, no matter how hard you scrub, whatever you do, there will always be some other stain or spot on your face or stupid act, somebody frowning. –from page 154
The clutch of Elaine’s friends—especially, Cordelia—is a dynamic that is timeless—women as girls have these relationships with one another that are intense—our sun rose and set, revolved around our best-est of friends. Our lives depended on their approval—on their being there. I had a handful of special friends—unfortunately, was horribly picked on through much of my childhood—hell if I know why I was so special to have that awful attention paid to me—whatever, right? Water long gone under that rickety bridge, thankfully, it’s not the same river anymore—yet, it’s something no one forgets, it’s a network of old scars that ache from time to time, and the worst memories crop up for no reason when you’d rather be thinking about something far more pleasant. It’s the way of it, I guess. But because of “it”, I believe I am stronger than most. As an adult, I have observed that the people who sailed through childhood without collecting these old battle wounds will never relate to what I experienced (as they might’ve done their share of damage on someone else without a second thought about what they were doing to another human being’s self-esteem.) It’s clear that their greatest disappointment was not getting their way every time, and they come to find out later in life that they are not prepared for when the shit hits the fan in their safe zones. There’s an unfortunate number of damaged people out there, some manage to muddle along in their version of normal, and some never quite get their footing—this has nothing to do with having money or an education, I’ve seen some fucked up well-off educated people, it’s sad—all of it…
Knowing too much about other people puts you in their power, they have a claim on you, you are forced to understand their reasons for doing things and then you are weakened.—from page 240
An eye for an eye only leads only to more blindness. –from page 443
There are some people I will never figure out—and don’t want to. Yet—as a writer, this is the shit I do. Probably because I have this treasure trove of experience—or probably because I was an odd kid—in my own world (still am.) Sitting in the safety of the present, I know now, that if I were a kid these days, I probably would be diagnosed within the autistic spectrum disorder and medicated into submission, but back then, I was pigeon-holed and shuffled along—I had my hearing tested more times than I can count, struggled with the Kindergarten teacher who wanted to change me from left handed to right handed, and then was tucked away in the reading lab, math lab, and speech therapy for extra help. My attention span wandered out more windows than taking notice of the blackboard—but I would move heaven and earth to try hard so my mom and dad wouldn’t be disappointed. I “woke up” by my junior year in high school—if I were ever to find myself, I couldn’t do it there in that little town where everybody knew me, I had to get out—so suddenly, college bound I got my act together. I turned out all right—on my own terms. That fucking Common Core crap is sucking the creativity out of kids—I can see the damage already in the ones coming through college—damn critters can’t look far beyond that illuminated screen in their hand without feeling withdrawals—with that said—I have sincere doubts about our future society. (Which I'm sure my parents said the same shit about my generation...getting old is a pain in the ass.)
Apart from all this, I do of course have a real life. I sometimes have trouble believing in it, because it doesn’t seem like the kind of life I could ever get away with, or deserve. This goes along with another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise….Alongside my real life I have a career, which may not qualify as exactly real. I am a painter. I even put that on my passport, in a moment of bravado, since the other choice would have been housewife. It’s an unlikely thing for me to have become; on some days it still makes me cringe. Respectable people do not become painters: only overblown, pretentious, theatrical people.—from pages 15-16
Art is what you can get away with, said somebody or other, which makes it sound like shoplifting or some other minor crime. And maybe that’s all it ever was, or is: a kind of stealing. A hijacking of the visual.—from page 247
This book also resonates with me as an artist—I’m a Boomer at the ass-end of the Boomer Gen—the women artists that were in the forefront, Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Nevelson, and especially Georgia O’Keeffe who was all over the place especially after she died [who didn’t buy (or longed to buy) the 100 Flowers book?]—and then there were women like Judy Chicago and Susan Rothenberg out there mixing it up with the boys club. I met Susan Rothenberg when she was a visiting artist at SU—I was in awe even tho’ I never heard of her until I learned that she was coming to do studio visits and a lecture. She was nice and normal—I was relieved because I was in a terrible angst-y time in my life and for once someone said that I was all right—searching as I should. (Sometimes it’s the person who doesn’t know you from a hole in the wall who grants words of wisdom that make the difference in your small part of the world.)
“I’m not mad because I’m woman.” I say. “I’m mad because you’re an asshole.”—from page 377
Even tho’ I do consider myself a feminist—I live my life within my own parameters that might make the hardcore feminists itch—just like they make me itch. I’m not one to “fit in” ever, ya dig? This little square peg still maintains her pointy corners and will never fit in anyone’s round hole no matter what the “rules” are—
But that's just me (and Grumpy Cat)...I have known for a long time I'll never fit in...
Right about the time I was close to the end of the book, I wrote a letter to my old childhood friend who I haven’t heard from since 1986/87—I found her last letter to me that I received just before we moved from one rented house to a rented flat, the letter got lost in the shuffle, but later emerged and disappeared during other moves. I recently found it again—and I felt bad that I lost track of her. Life sends us on our way—like it or not. We were the best of friends when we were very young, she moved away when we were teenagers and of course, things change—we changed—she moved on while I remained behind in a way, yet moving on to where I needed to go. Chances are we have nothing in common beyond our original bond—yet I wanted to tell her that I think about her every year at this time when her birthday rolls around. I did send the letter—don’t know if I’ll ever hear back. If not—that’s all right, we’ve moved on as we should.
Such are my pictures of the dead. –from page 28
I’m eating a wing. It’s the wing of a tame turkey, the stupidest bird in the world, so stupid it can’t even fly any more. I am eating lost flight. –from page 145
Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also, and if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once. – the first sentence, first page.
Damn, I love this book.