Last year, I acquired a copy of Margaret Atwood’s 1988 novel “Cat’s Eye” from the Myopic Books in Wicker Park, Chicago. The front jacket had a handwritten inscription; the book was apparently a gift to someone, delivered July 19, 1990. The writer tells “Dearest Marya” that fiction is hard to select but that “none the less I hope you enjoy this selection.”

There’s also a sticker in the front: “From the library of Marya.”

I don’t know if  Marya enjoyed the book, but I did. I also added my own pen markups to the book. Some of my favorites:

“I can no longer control these paintings, or tell them what to mean. Whatever energy they have came out of me. I’m what’s left over.” <- I love this since it gets at how paintings are sort of like mini children

“It’s the eyes I look at now. I used to think these were self-righteous eyes, piggy and smug insider their wire frames, and they are. But they are also defeated eyes, uncertain and melancholy, heavy with unloved duty. The eyes of someone for whom God was an sadistic old man; the eyes of a small town threadbare decency.” <- it always amazed me that the alleged greatest power in the universe was supposed to be a grumpy, jealous old man

The past isn’t quaint while you’re in it. Only at a safe distance, later when you can see it as décor, not the shape your life’s been squeezed into.” <- I have tried various frameworks for writing about/understanding the past, but this is one of my favorites (and better than I’ve ever been able to do)

“The world is being run by people my age … When the leaders were older than me I could believe in their wisdom, I could believe they had transcended rage and malice and the need to be loved.  Now I know better. I look at the faces in the newspaper, in magazines, and wonder: What greeds, what furies drive them on?” <- it’s almost like most politicians don’t know what they’re doing

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.”   <- This is the best distillation I’ve ever read of why things like Facebook are uniquely depressing

Fainting is like stepping sideways, out of your own body, out of time or into another time. When you wake up it’s later. Time has gone on without you.” <- as a chronic fainter, this is exactly right



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  1. […] never get over the “words in boxes” of Aristophanes’ “Frogs,” the bemoaning of knowing too much about others in Margaret Atwood’s “Cat’s Eye,” the orchestral surges in The […]

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