Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Impervious scintillation of the thirteen

My muse has been too tired/busy to write for the past few days. I'm thinking that now probably wasn't the best time to start a new blog that I want to update regularly. No matter! Today, kids, we're going to be talking about Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood, because I can't get over how amazing it is.

I believe a chronological explanation is in order: I first read this book at the end of 2005. I found it mired in depression, in such a way that it weighed me down, though it was otherwise quite fine. I usually love depressing books, but this one seemed to sit heavily in the pit of my stomach and it wouldn't go away. As it was, I had to study it for an exam, so I read it again a few months later. I loved it. I have heard similar stories from other people, so if you've read it once and didn't like it, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE GIVE IT ANOTHER CHANCE.

All up, now, I have read it almost five times and it is quite unique. I read it slowly, revelling - no, wallowing - in the voluptuous beauty of the language, savouring every tiny detail. It has got to be the sole book I read only for the aesthetic qualities of the language.

It's also quite clever. There are metaphors five layers deep, and a cyclical structure that is not only symbolic, but ingenious. And did I mention that it's beautiful? I don't think I did, I'll just have to say it again. IT'S BEAUTIFUL.

It's also thought-provoking, and I quote:

Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also... I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. You don't look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing.

This theme of time as a dimension, introduced on the first page, no less, permeates the entire book and is mirrored beautifully in a number of metaphoric ways. It's certainly an interesting idea, no? It's mixed up with all of the most interesting parts of physics, the parts that can be understood at a shallow level without all the maths and stuff. Like walking through walls and travelling in time.

Not so long ago, I read a quote about literature that struck me as being deeply profound. I'll have to paraphrase it, because for some unfathomable reason I didn't write it down, but it was something along the lines of "the greatest thing about literature is seeing in print an idea you had thought was yours only". Ever experienced that weird, almost deja vu-like feeling when you read something that perfectly encapsulates something you believe? I experience it on a daily basis. I have a notebook in which I write these down, so as to preserve their universality (or so I like to think about it) in an easily-accessible place.

The reason I mention this is because there are a few of these in Cat's Eye. It's important to realise that these soul-touching quotes are going to be different for everyone, but the one that really stood out for me was this (again paraphrased): "little girls are small and cute only to grown-ups. To each other they are life sized." Something about this dully stated truth chills me to the core, though perhaps it is only in the context of the book that I understand it.

Here are some more amazing quotes:

"We’re impervious, we scintillate, we are thirteen..." has a better description of teenagehood ever been written? I Think Not.

Actually, I can't be bothered finding more quotes. Just read the damn thing. Read it and weep, weep for the beauty, the beauty of tragedy. Weep for the salvation of the human race, in the eternal form of Cat's Eye.

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