[Reading] ➸ The Cat's Table Author Michael Ondaatje – Pdfr25.co


The Cat's Table A Spellbinding Story By Turns Poignant And Electrifying About The Magical, Often Forbidden, Discoveries Of Childhood And A Lifelong Journey That Begins Unexpectedly With A Spectacular Sea VoyageIn The Early S, An Eleven Year Old Boy In Colombo Boards A Ship Bound For England At Mealtimes He Is Seated At The Cat S Table As Far From The Captain S Table As Can Be With A Ragtag Group Of Insignificant Adults And Two Other Boys, Cassius And Ramadhin As The Ship Makes Its Way Across The Indian Ocean, Through The Suez Canal, Into The Mediterranean, The Boys Tumble From One Adventure To Another, Bursting All Over The Place Like Freed Mercury But There Are Other Diversions As Well One Man Talks With Them About Jazz And Women, Another Opens The Door To The World Of Literature The Narrator S Elusive, Beautiful Cousin Emily Becomes His Confidante, Allowing Him To See Himself With A Distant Eye For The First Time, And To Feel The First Stirring Of Desire Another Cat S Table Denizen, The Shadowy Miss Lasqueti, Is Perhaps Than What She Seems And Very Late Every Night, The Boys Spy On A Shackled Prisoner, His Crime And His Fate A Galvanizing Mystery That Will Haunt Them ForeverAs The Narrative Moves Between The Decks And Holds Of The Ship And The Boy S Adult Years, It Tells A Spellbinding Story By Turns Poignant And Electrifying About The Magical, Often Forbidden, Discoveries Of Childhood And A Lifelong Journey That Begins Unexpectedly With A Spectacular Sea Voyage


10 thoughts on “The Cat's Table

  1. says:

    It s a four star book with five stars I ll explain in a minute.I m still thinking on the Cat s Table I ve enjoyed Ondaatje s poetry than his novels and this book seems to straddle those categories a bit He writes beautifully on the visual and emotional fronts He structures long works creatively and I m still trying to decide how well this one works for me.The Cat s Table is, primarily, a story of a three week voyage by ship, from Colombo to London Its focus is on three unrelated and unsupervised boys and their interactions with fellow travelers, especially those assigned to their low profile dinner table It s a 1952 bit of exotica and bildungsroman with flashes into the future to see how these characters fare or have been effected by events along the voyage.I think the structure lessens the emotional impact a bit, but I ll keep thinking on it for a while Sometimes a really excellent book will have characters that come back to the front of my mind over the course of years I can almost imagine the ship and the lights of the Suez Canal at night coming back to me, but not the characters.So, five stars If you are an author who wants to evoke a powerful emotional response, there are some easy paths to this rape, torture, abuse of children or other innocents, messy divorces, cancer, etc Some of these things are fairly common in our lives, some much less so All can be used for shock value and as a foil for characters to be tested, to explain their growth or diminishing.As a reader, often but not exclusively, of what passes as serious literature I want to read short lists for the Booker and Tournament of Books selections and Pulitzers and National Book awards I want to see what an author can say about life without resorting to these easy obstacles Being wiped out in a drug deal gone bad is not particularly enlightening I am shocked but not improved in any way from the depiction of a brutal rape either from the victim s or the aggressor s point of view What is particular bothersome is that these shortcuts are frequently becoming the path toward critical acclaim and awards.So, in some categories of literature, I m taking away a star or for authors that require this little bit of shock value to propel their characters or add weight to their writing Likewise, I ll add a star to authors that can get by without it Ondaatje has written beautifully and thoughtfully about humanity enlarged by events and gets one rape free star bonus point.


  2. says:

    No one writes poetic prose like Michael Ondaatje But his gorgeous, sensuous language and piercing insights into the human condition sometimes impede the flow of his latest novel.The Cat s Table takes place on a ship called the Oronsay in the early 1950s, heading from Sri Lanka then Ceylon to England, where Michael we ll get to that name later , the 11 year old narrator, is heading to live with his estranged mother.The title refers to the dining table for the ship s misfits, who include the narrator, two other preadolescent boys and a handful of single adults Far removed from the first class passengers and captain s table, they re far interesting to a burgeoning writer like the narrator Mr Mazappa, one of the ship s musicians, shares exotic stories of Gay Paree, and Mr Daniels maintains a lush garden in the bowels of the ship.Also capturing everyone s imagination is a mysterious prisoner who s led out for a nightly walk And then there s Michael s beautiful older cousin Emily, whose life will connect with the others in unpredictable ways.Obviously, there are bits of autobiography here, from the narrator s name to the fact that the author took a similar journey on a ship called the Oronsay in the same era.The young Michael learns about social hierarchies and the power of storytelling, and Ondaatje gives us another perspective later in the book when the narrator, now a successful writer living in Canada, ponders the mysteries of what happened during the trip.But is it a memoir A novel It seems like some unsatisfying hybrid that never really soars.The sentences themselves are thrilling, though Ondaatje lets you see the meaning in how a young woman adjusts the strap on her dress or how someone catching his reflection in a mirror may suddenly see himself move from boyhood to youth.Starting out, the book seems like a grand adventure reminiscent of something by Kipling or Conrad but with a knowing take on colonialism and class.Alas, the pieces never come together into something as fluid and magical as The English Patient or Anil s Ghost or as funny and touching as his actual memoir, Running In The Family.Originally published in NOW Magazine


  3. says:

    Finishing a book and feeling compelled to turn to the first page again to reread it is not something I do a lot but The Cat s Table is just such a book The writing is quietly beautiful and the description of the long vanished world of a 1950 s trip on an ocean liner is perfect The reread offers extra insights into that world and underlines the complexity of Ondaatje s story telling There are many hints of the events to come but they remain quite subtle, not at all menacing In fact the dramatic events which enfold are always secondary to the descriptions of the passengers and the slices of their lives which we are offered so compellingly In any case, Ondaatje doesn t really bother too much with tying up the loose ends of the plot he leaves some things to our imagination.


  4. says:

    A Trip through the LiminalIt s hard to imagine today but in 1953 Michael, who was eleven years old, traveled by ship from his native Sri Lanka to England with virtually no adult supervision He had an aunt traveling in first class who chatted with him a few times throughout the trip when they happened to meet on deck but other than that he was on his own There was a vast distance between steerage, where Michael berthed, and first class In steerage he mixed with the crew, an odd assortment of academics and even some criminals Anything could happen in these nether regions The worst that could happen in first class was gossip over cards Michael immediately bonded with two other tween boys, Ramadhin and Cassius, when they re seated together at the cat s table The cat s table was the designation for the lowliest table set furthest away from the glitter of the captain s seating Michael s new friends were as unfettered as he was and they roamed the boat freely spying on their fellow passengers and watching the ever changing and amazing scenery pass by There was a criminal in chains on board whose guards led him out during the late evening hours The boys hid in lifeboats and watched as he walked in chains around the deck They speculated what horrible crime he d committed since no one seemed to know any facts Michael shortly cavorted with an onboard thief who enlisted him to help steal Emily, Michael s beautiful and wild seventeen year old and much admired cousin, puts an end to this when she realizes what he s doing In short the boys have the adventure of their young lives On landing in England and reuniting with his mother, Michael quickly merges into his new life but stays in touch with Cassius Most of Cat s Table is written from the perspective of an eleven year old but there are sections written from Michael s adult self is looking back on a great adventure and reevaluating its meaning What appeared to be truth to an eleven year old takes on different meanings through the experience of middle age His two friends changed the trajectory of his life At eleven his travels seemed like just a blip but looking back what seemed minimal actually influenced large swaths of his life Anyone whose read Ondaatje is aware how lush his language is and how profound his insights are and happily Cat s Table is no exception The two weeks of their ship journey was a suspension of life A pit stop Their lives were on hold and anything was possible They formed associations at whim They stayed up to all hours They stole They were free from constraints They spied on adults The future seemed irrelevant They didn t question their friendship Yet this trip influenced the rest of their lives It was a small journey that became large This is a trip through the liminal A demarcation between one world and another, from Sri Lanka to England, from childhood with kind but distant relatives and freedom to roam the lush Sri Lankan sights, sounds and people to a barely remembered mother and an alien England.I ve read Ondaatje s Divisdero , In the Skin of the Lion and The English Patient That s also the order of my preference and compared with them Cat s Table feels restrained As always Ondaatje sprinkles truths and cogent observations about the tragedy and beauty of life but he never hits you over the head He leaves it to the reader to take away what s relevant for themselves.


  5. says:

    Michael was eleven years old that night when, green as he could be about the world , he climbed aboard the first and only ship of his life, the Oronsay, sailing for England from Colombo.Unbeknownst to him, the twenty one days at sea would become twenty one years of schooling, molding him into the adult he would one day be, when he joined the cat s table, the least important place to eat on the ship The lessons he picked up from the adult company filled up several pages of his old school exercise books He still had time to make those notes, amid the adventures in which he and his friends, Ramadhin and Cassius, engaged in on the ship They witnessed an adult world filled with thieves, adulterers, gamblers, teachers, authority, natural healers, dreamers and schemers Oh yes, and a shackled, dangerous prisoner Each one of them becomes important in the three boys lives through either their words or conduct The ship had lots to offer for three young boys to keep them occupied So many people, so many stories, so many intrigue And then there was the ports of callMiss Perinetta Lasqueti was one of the guests around the Cat s Table who would become one of the biggest influences in their lives Their first impression of her manner was that of being like faded wallpaper, but the they found out about her, the convinced they became that she was like a box of small foxes at a country fair She would become one of the biggest surprises on their life s journey.Mr Mazappa the boisterous, loud pianist would change their newly acquired perspective on old paintings with his approach to the angelic Madonnas in them, saying The trouble with all those Madonnas is that there is a child that needs to be fed and the mothers are putting forth breasts that look like panino shaped bladders No wonder the babies look like disgruntled adults p.213 kindle edition Mr Larry Daniels, the botanist, would teach them much about his plants than they would ever need to know in their lifetimes Mr Fonseka, the teacher, had a serenity that came with the choice of the life he wanted to live And this serenity and certainty I have seen only among those who have the armour of books close by I wanted to read this book for such a long time now There was just something about it that told me it would roll me over and tie me down in its prose It did I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered its popularity on Goodreads Some books just put themselves where it can be read because it is really that good It is multifaceted It is thought provoking It is excellent It is one of those books you cannot walk away from easily It has all the elements to promise that it will become a classic in time I want to reread it I just have to Period.


  6. says:

    Beautiful book


  7. says:

    Sitting at the Cat s Table is the least prestigious seat, but the one from which you can see the most The Captain s table is on display, for others to look at at the Cat s Table, you have all your time free to watch everything going on about you Note The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook


  8. says:

    A very satisfying read that left me with a lot of lingering emotions And delayed insights about the mysteries of how we grow into our adult selves Michael reflects back on a long journey on an ocean liner he took in the early 50 s when he was 11, travelling from his life with his emotionally distant father in Ceylon now Sri Lanka to his mother in England, where she moved after a divorce.He is poorly supervised by a female family friend who travels in first class Michael makes friends with two other boys who together engage in a lot of adventures, pushing all limits that they can This includes spying upon and making up stories about the multicultural mix of adults on the ship, starting with the passengers who share the Cat s Table with the kids in the dining room Sometimes their shenanigans cross too many boundaries and sometimes their fantasies about nefarious activities or secret affairs of certain adults turns out to reflect reality A mystery involving his favorite cousin, Emily, in her late teens, becomes quite an obsession with Michael, whose affection for her evokes his first erotic experiences.Ondaatje captivates the reader with his vision of youthful freedom and escape It s not exactly comic like a Ferris Bueller s Day Off and it s not exactly dark like Lord of the Flies Somewhere on the middle of the scale from comic to tragic scale Bit by bit, we learn about Michael s loneliness in his past life and apprehensions for the future Then slowly and deftly the author turns the boy s present on the boat voyage into a gateway to Michael s choices and experiences in his later life, first in England and later as an immigrant in Toronto Initially the lapses forward felt distracting from the adventures on the ship, but then the story turns into a masterful revelation on coming of age and on how experiences at a critical time in youth can resonate throughout one s life That Ondaatje is a poet assures some well crafted delights in the writing in this novel.Despite disclaimed that everything in this novel is fiction, one can t help wonder how many of the parallels with Ondaatje s own life reflect autobiographical elements Here is a passage about Michael learning some insights from a filmmaker on the trip, which seems to invoke a forgiving attitude in looking at one s past and people experienced along the way He spoke of how viewers of his films should not assume they understand everything about the characters As members of an audience we should never feel ourselves wiser than they we do not have knowledge than the characters have about themselves We should not feel reassured or certain about their motives, or look down on them I believe this I recognize this as a first principle of art, although I have the suspicion that many would not Here is a passage that captures some of his regard for Emily A writer, I cannot remember who, spoke of a person having a confusing grace With an uncertainty alongside her warmth, that is how Emily has always been for me You trusted her but she didn t trust herself She was good , but she was not that way in her own eyes Those qualities still had not balanced out somehow, or agreed with each other.The dawning erotic sense Michael experiences with Emily opens a lot of doors in his mind, beautifully captured in this passage Yet where had it come from And was it a pleasure or a sadness, this life inside me It was as if with its existence I was lacking something essential, like water.I felt in that moment that I had been alone for years I had existed too cautiously with my family, as though there had been shards of glass always around us Whatever small props of necessary defence I d surrounded myself with, which contained and protected me, and which had marked an outline of me, were no longer there Sometimes we find our true and inherent selves during youth It is a recognition of something that at first is small within ourselves that we will grow into somehow Looking back, I am no longer certain who gave me what pieces of advice, or befriended us, or deceived us And some events only sank in much later.


  9. says:

    Cat s Table the ocean liner equivalent of the kiddie s table, only leavened with a motley group of adult ne er do wells as well It s where little Michael Ondaatje, age 11, sat on a memorable thus, the book voyage aboard the Oransay many decades ago In this book, we meet not only Michael but his comrades in mischief, bad boy Cassius and thoughtful Ramadhin The three of them do what bored boys do get into trouble and spy on interesting adults, especially interesting women like Michael s cousin Emily, who plays a role in the end.Ah, the end Suffice it to say that the book goes awry somewhere along the voyage, drifting from a creditable coming of age slash descriptive marvel to a murder melodrama or something centering on minor characters we as readers have little capital in Can you say Yawn Can you ask Why OK, so I just did Really, Ondaatje was on to something with the world through boys eyes bit when he suddenly switched horses midstream or mid ocean, if you will Whatever possessed him By the time the book finally makes port, it is taking on water Badly.If you re an Ondaatje fan, you ll find the plot accessible and the diction less dense Whether that s good or bad, I cannot say.If you re not an Ondaatje fan, don t feel bullied into loving this because of reviews or because of his hallowed name Big name writers have to perform, too, after all Earn their daily bread with the readers, so to speak.Four stars until it hits a 2 star iceberg, then I ll split the difference.


  10. says:

    The Cat s Table would have been enchanting as just a series of character sketches and picaresque vignettes, culminating in an affecting reassessment as an adult of the connections made as a child That a genuine mystery emerges during that short but momentous voyage gravitating around a menacing, shackled prisoner who is only let out under highly and unusually protected conditions at night is a splendid, intriguing bonus.If The Cat s Table is not Ondaatje s best novel yet oh, but I think it is , it is certainly his most straightforwardly told and emotionally accessible story It s a yearning tribute with an almost fairytale like aura to the memories of awe that pervade our dreams and nightmares and fears , and the memories of sometimes unlikely affiliation and love and what we mistake as love that pervade and haunt our hearts, guide us or sometimes lead us astray.Read my full review here


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