Friday, August 3, 2012
The Cat's Table
Memory is ever-changing and pliable, I believe. What I think I remember from my past is not always what another remembers about the same incident or experience. One piece of information or recollection alters my memory, making me wonder what else I might have mistaken or not completely understood.
Michael, the narrator in The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje, moves between many time periods as he describes the three-week sea voyage he made from Colombo in Ceylon to England as a young boy. He was assigned to table 76 for meals and shared this space with numerous colorful and intriguing characters. It was the least desirable place to sit, the furthest from the captain's table, called the cat's table. Michael tells of his exploits with two other young boys making the voyage: their early morning prowls on deck to watch an Australian roller-skater, their interactions with a botanist whose secret garden is preserved in the bowels of the ship, their speculations and observations.
The author takes readers back and forth between the ship's activities and the passengers' lives before and after the voyage, providing enlightenment and additional intrigue, all the while creating wonder in Michael's mind about what has happened in his life.