I highly recommend Margaret Atwood's writing. The novels of hers which I have most enjoyed are "The Handmaid's Tale", "Oryx and Crake" and this one, "Cat's Eye".
Here is a tiny introduction to "Cat's Eye", copied from the back cover:
"Elaine Risley, a painter, returns to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by her past. Memories of childhood - unbearable betrayals and cruelties - surface relentlessly, forcing her to confront the spectre of Cordelia, once her best friend and tormentor, who has haunted her for forty years."
And here is a quotation from the Listener:
"Not since Graham Greene or William Golding has a novelist captured so forcefully the relationship between school bully and victim... Atwood's power games are played, exquisitely, by little girls."
The bullying certainly has the powerful ring of truth, and I find that the truth and meticulous attention to detail are compellingly attractive in this novel. I have read several of Atwood's books and greatly admire her intellect, her intelligence, her deep knowledge of and familiarity with the natural world. I also, of course, admire the layers of complexity in the thoughts and thought processes of the characters Atwood creates for us - usually as here, the thoughts of the central character who is the first person narrator of the story. And of course I relish the story itself. - Atwood is a compellingly original writer.
Having said all this, I would like to quote you a paragraph from page 269 of my copy, on the first page of chapter 48, which is where I have reached in the novel, because it is of particular interest to me and I would like to make some comments about it:
"She is sitting on a stool, her buttocks squashing out sideways; her stocky back is curved, her right leg is crossed over her left at the knee, her right elbow rests on her right knee, her left arm is placed behind her with the hand on the stool. Her eyes are bored, her head droops forward, the way it has been put. She looks cramped and uncomfortable, and also cold; I can see the goose-bumps on her upper arms. She has a thick neck. Her hair is frizzly and short, red with darker roots, and I suspect she is chewing gum: every once in a while there is a slow, furtive, sideways motion of her jaw. She is not supposed to move.
I am trying to draw this woman, with a piece of charcoal. I am trying for fluidity of line. This is how the teacher has arranged her: for fluidity of line. I would rather be using a hard pencil; the charcoal gets on my fingers and smears, and is no good for hair. Also this woman frightens me. There is a lot of flesh to her, especially below the waist; there are folds across her stomach, her breasts are saggy and have enormous dark nipples. The harsh fluorescent light, falling straight down on her, turns her eye sockets to caverns, emphasises the descending lines from nose to chin; but the massiveness of her body makes her head look like an afterthought. She is not beautiful, and I am afraid of turning into that."
As a steroid victim, I have experienced actually being morbidly obese, as opposed to being simply a careful observer of someone who is morbidly obese. This life model would certainly be 'cramped and uncomfortable'; her heart will be enlarged because of her abnormally high blood volume (the cause of her obesity), and this enlarged heart and the model's greatly enlarged/distended blood vessels mean that the space available in the thoracic cavity for the lungs to expand will be much reduced. - She will not be merely uncomfortable in the position in which she has been put; she will be having some difficulty breathing and will be breathing rather shallowly and painfully and perhaps quite rapidly. - 'She has a thick neck' because of the distended blood vessels. (The neck will also appear reddened because of the nearness of these swollen blood vessels to the surface of the sensitive, thinning skin. This has not been mentioned by Elaine, the artist in the novel.)
She is most likely to be very hungry: very overweight people obviously need larger quantities of food/calories than slimmer people because they have such a heavy body to carry around and service, and because they have a larger surface area from which to lose heat. (Eating more is a consequence of being overweight, not the cause of it.) So she is chewing and she is cold and she has goose-bumps.
Elaine says of the woman: "There is a lot of flesh to her," and here I would disagree with Elaine, though that would clearly be her perception. - Actually, the woman will have LESS flesh than if she were slimmer. This is because most of the excess weight of a morbidly obese woman is not flesh, but fluid retention - excess salt and water in her bloodstream. She is one of the unfortunate people who are sensitive to salt/sodium. Frequently fluid retention causes fat retention too, because of shortage of minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium. See http://aboutsalt.blogspot.com/search/label/malnutrition She will almost certainly have tried dieting many times and will have lost much of her firm flesh and thickness of skin because the body feeds on itself when a person eats insufficient food/calories for its requirements.
The woman's breasts are 'saggy' because of all the excess salt and water they contain: water always travels downwards. When people's bodies suddenly appear to be suffering from the effects of gravity, so-called, it is actually the effects of fluid retention, exacerbated often by dieting, which thins and weakens the skin and blood vessel walls further, so that the fluid retention increases. Similarly 'the descending lines from nose to chin' are a characteristic feature of morbidly obese people and are formed because of the downward pull of the fluid in the veins and the enclosing flesh/skin being too weak to resist its pull. The 'massivenessness of her body' when compared with her head would not be a constant. - If the woman were to be lying down, a lot of the excess blood volume would naturally migrate from her body to her head and neck, which would gradually swell/enlarge and redden, causing great discomfort. She may even feel as though she is being throttled...
She - the fictional model for the life class - would greatly benefit by eating as little salt and salty food as possible.
Lose weight by eating less salt! Go on! - Try it! - You will feel so much better!
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