Tag Archives: michael ondaatje

The Cat’s Table

My review of Michael Ondaatje new novel, The Cat’s Table, ran on Friday at The National.

It’s another fine book from Ondaatje, an author who has been remarkably consistent, insofar as I’ve read him.

As a grown man in London, Michael, narrator of The Cat’s Table, attends an exhibition of paintings made by Cassius, whom he knew as a young boy when they were passengers from India to Britain on the Oronsay. The paintings, Michael reflects, remind him of photographs made by Jacques Henri Lartigue, noteworthy for being from “the natural angle of a small boy with a camera looking up at the adults he was photographing.”

Cassius’s paintings are also from the angle of a small boy – they are of things he saw while on board the Oronsay – but these views are supplemented by the years of memory and painterly skill grown up around them as Cassius has become an adult. The Cat’s Table, a heavily autobiographical novel that Ondaatje insists is not a memoir, is a literary version of these paintings, one that will not only show us the views of a child recollected by an adult memory but will also dive into the space in between.

The book begins with young Michael stepping aboard the Oronsay in Colombo and ends with him stepping off in London, but in the intervening 300 pages Ondaatje will, in typical fashion, travel widely. . . .


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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