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Sleeping with Cats: A Memoir
     

Sleeping with Cats: A Memoir

3.7 10
by Marge Piercy
 

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Marge Piercy, a writer who is highly praised as both a poet and a novelist, turns her gaze inward as she shares her thoughts on life and explores her development as a woman and writer. She pays tribute to the one loving constant that has offered her comfort and meaning even as the faces and events in her life have changed -- her beloved cats.

With searing

Overview

Marge Piercy, a writer who is highly praised as both a poet and a novelist, turns her gaze inward as she shares her thoughts on life and explores her development as a woman and writer. She pays tribute to the one loving constant that has offered her comfort and meaning even as the faces and events in her life have changed -- her beloved cats.

With searing honesty, Piercy tells of her strained childhood growing up in a religiously split, working-class family in Detroit. She examines her myriad friendships and relationships, including two painful early marriages, and reveals their effects on her creativity and career. More than a reminiscence of things past, however, Sleeping With Cats is also a celebration of the present and the future, as Piercy shares her views on aging, creativity, and finding a lasting and improbable love with a man fourteen years younger than herself.

A chronicle of the turbulent and exciting journey of one artist's life, Sleeping With Cats is a deeply intimate, unforgettable story.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
The usually reticent Thomas Pynchon lauded Marge Piercy for having "the guts…to risk more than anybody else, just out of a love for truth and a need to tell it." That risk and that need have been seldom demonstrated better than in Sleeping with Cats, Piercy's strikingly honest memoir. The Marge we see in these pages is not just an aspiring writer, serving a steady literary apprenticeship. She is instead a sickly, often confused young woman growing up in a rough Detroit neighborhood. As a teenager, she belonged to a gang, carried a knife, and had numerous sexual encounters. Her parents didn't want her to go to college; she married badly not once, but twice; and at 23, she was a struggling divorcée whose writing career was going nowhere. Amid such upheaval, it is perhaps not surprising that this talented writer continued to seek out the company of cats. And, fortunately for us, her typewriter.
Publishers Weekly
Born in the mid-1930s in a tough Detroit neighborhood, poet and novelist Piercy (Dance the Eagle to Sleep) fought grueling battles in her youth, involving difficult relationships with her parents, participation in a street gang and more. When she became pregnant at 17, her mother left her alone to perform an abortion on herself she almost bled to death and her hostile father once broke her fingers in the car door when she was late for a shopping trip. Piercy notes that her memoir's focus is her emotional life, but that understates the book's rich picture of her literary and political life. That life embraces 15 novels and just as many books of poetry, three marriages (one a 15-year open relationship in a communal household), sojourns in Chicago, San Francisco, Brooklyn and Paris, and a deep engagement in the political movements of the 1960s through the '80s. She peppers these events with charming vignettes of the many cats she's befriended during her life. Piercy is as convincing writing about her rough beginnings as she is describing her present status as the "cat lady" of her tiny Cape Cod town. "Remembering," she writes, "is like one of those old-fashioned black-and-white-tile floors: wherever I stand or sit, the tiles converge upon me. So our pasts always seem to lead us directly to our present choices. We turn and make a pattern of the chaos of our lives so that we belong exactly where we are." B&w photos. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Born in the mid-1930s in a tough Detroit neighborhood, poet and novelist Piercy (Dance the Eagle to Sleep) fought grueling battles in her youth, involving difficult relationships with her parents, participation in a street gang and more. When she became pregnant at 17, her mother left her alone to perform an abortion on herself she almost bled to death and her hostile father once broke her fingers in the car door when she was late for a shopping trip. Piercy notes that her memoir's focus is her emotional life, but that understates the book's rich picture of her literary and political life. That life embraces 15 novels and just as many books of poetry, three marriages (one a 15-year open relationship in a communal household), sojourns in Chicago, San Francisco, Brooklyn and Paris, and a deep engagement in the political movements of the 1960s through the '80s. She peppers these events with charming vignettes of the many cats she's befriended during her life. Piercy is as convincing writing about her rough beginnings as she is describing her present status as the "cat lady" of her tiny Cape Cod town. "Remembering," she writes, "is like one of those old-fashioned black-and-white-tile floors: wherever I stand or sit, the tiles converge upon me. So our pasts always seem to lead us directly to our present choices. We turn and make a pattern of the chaos of our lives so that we belong exactly where we are." B&w photos. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Piercy, the prolific author of more than 30 books of poetry, novels, essays, a play, and So You Want To Write: Mastering the Craft of Fiction and Personal Narrative (with Ira Wood, her third husband), writes an about-to-turn 65 memoir that, as she says, "focuses on my emotional life, not on my literary or political adventures, or most of my friendships." Her personal assessment is neither self-congratulatory nor self-denigrating: "I have become a better person in my most intimate relationships and in my relationships with the natural world and with my cats." But she finds herself less effective politically and also comments that "my life has been full of blunders, misprisions, accidents, losses, so no wonder I forget. If I did not forget much, how could I possibly continue?" Her narrative is indeed a penetrating analysis of emotional and personal difficulties and of some successes, and she articulates many of her most poignant moments not only in prose but also in verse. Recommended for a wide variety of general readers in public libraries. Carolyn M. Craft, Longwood Coll., Farmville, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From poet and novelist Piercy (Three Women, 1999, etc.), a beguilingly frank account of a fully engaged life, shared with cats. Detailing the changes that have roiled society since the Depression, as well as her relationships with family, friends, and lovers, Piercy provides a vivid, if unanalyzed, historical and personal record of the late-20th century. Paralleling her own story are those of the cats she has known through her life: sweet-natured Fluffy, vindictively poisoned in her adolescence; difficult but beautiful Jim Beam; and her four current cats, two Korats and two tabbies. Like all cat lovers, Piercy celebrates the animals' intelligence, loyalty, and sensitivity as she interweaves their destinies with hers. She begins with her early years in a tough Detroit neighborhood. Only child Piercy was alienated from both her Jewish mother and her gentile father while growing up, though she later became closer to her elderly mother. Young Marge belonged to a gang, carried a knife, and had numerous sexual relationships. Her parents didn't want her to go to college, but with scholarships and money she earned working, she went off in the late 1950s to the University of Michigan. There, she won writing prizes and met her first husband, but was soon divorced. She subsequently lived in San Francisco, Boston, and New York, acquired a second husband, and, as the Vietnam War heated up, threw herself into antiwar protests. She was a prominent member of the SDS, injuring her back in encounters with the police, but after becoming increasingly soured by the New Left's attitude toward women, she joined the burgeoning feminist movement and lived in an open marriage. Times changed: finding politics toodemanding, Piercy moved to Cape Cod, where she still lives with her third husband-and the cats. Recognizing writing as "the real core" of her life, she now puts it first. The personal and the political recollected with honesty and passion. (b&w photos throughout)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061865558
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
464,002
File size:
497 KB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A Family of Seven

Do I have faith in my memory? Who doesn't? How can I not trust memory. It is as if I were to develop a mistrust for my right hand or my left foot. Yet I am quite aware that my memory is far from perfect. I frequently forget events and people that my husband, Ira Wood, remembers, and similarly, I remember incidents that have slipped away from him. I rarely remember things incorrectly; mostly I remember clearly or I forget completely.

I have distinct memories of events that happened before I was born or for which I was not present. This comes from having heard the stories told vividly by my mother or my grandmother when I was little and imagining those scenes and the people in them so clearly and intensely that I experience them as my own. I have precise memories of the voice and face of my mother's father, who died ten years before I was born. Stories about him that I heard as a child were so real to me that I created him as a living personage.

I have trouble remembering periods of intense pain. The summer my second marriage was disintegrating around me was a time I so hated every moment that it has almost vanished into the limbo of repressed pain. Sometimes a sound or a smell or a voice will break that seal of willful forgetfulness and out will slither those poisonous days and nights.

Once that has happened with events, I will not again forget. They are filed in a different part of my memory and can be summoned, or will drift up unbidden to torment me. But they are no longer vanquished,vanished.

I am convinced that all those people I write about would remember events and patterns of events quite differently than I do. After all, memory changes. Our pasts constantly change. When a friend betrays us or turns against us, the past is rewritten to prefigure that betrayal, that loss of intimacy and faith. When a love affair ends, we read the causes backward into the quarrels, even the minor disagreements. Those months of the inexplicable allergic sniffles of a friend suddenly become clues once we learn of their cocaine addiction. Someone we had scarcely known becomes an important figure in our lives, and in retrospect, every small meeting or passage together is invested with significance. Remembering is like one of those old-fashioned black-and-white-tile floors: wherever I stand or sit, the tiles converge upon me. So our pasts always seem to lead us directly to our present choices. We turn and make a pattern of the chaos of our lives so that we belong exactly where we are. Everything is a prefiguring of our current loves and antipathies, work and faith. We compose a future that leads from where we believe we are at the moment. When the present changes, past and future change significantly with it.

This is, after all, my perspective on my life, not anyone else's. It is neither true nor false in a large sense, because my truth of events is not the same as that of the others who lived them with me. To create a faithful autobiography would require as many years in the telling as the living of it, with transcriptions of every casual meandering conversation about what kind of soup to have for lunch, the weather, a movie seen last week. It would be filled with dirty bathrooms and clean laundry, bills paid and unpaid, overdue library books, hems to mend, We spend more time doing dishes than we do making love, but which figures prominently in the story of our lives? We choose, therefore, only certain events, certain people, certain points of crisis and joy. It is an extremely stylized map, with most of the byways omitted, even the most interesting and lovely and dangerous byways, because we are always hastening to arrive where we now think it is important and inevitable that we live.

I try to make myself look good, but I am aware that sometimes my honesty and my attachment to what happened prevent me from presenting myself as the blameless heroine. I usually try to do the best I can from day to day, but my best is often flawed and skewed, and sometimes I try to inflict harm. I aim to be good, but sometimes I am best at being at least mildly wicked. I frequently misjudge situations and people and blunder in where I should avoid. I talk myself into relationships that are good for no one, and certainly not for me. Or if good for me, bad for the other person. As I look at my life, I like the work I have done, but I often dislike how I have behaved with other people. I have intended to be a better friend and lover than I have turned out to be.

I think for the most part as time has gone on, I have become a better person in my most intimate relationships and in my relationships with the natural world and with my cats. I do not think I am any more effective politically than I was thirty years ago -- probably less so. I assume leadership more warily. I am a better writer, but I stand behind the earlier novels and poetry. My life has been full of blunders, misprisions, accidents, losses, so no wonder I forget. If I did not forget much, how could I possibly continue? At the end, I will forget everything.

Why a memoir now? Well, I am about to turn sixty-five. In common with a lot of baby boomers -- the generation after mine but the one I often identify with -- I am still surprised that I have aged. I got to have two adolescences, one at the normal time, and a second one in Students for a Democratic Society during the 1960s. I...

Sleeping with Cats. Copyright © by Marge Piercy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Marge Piercy is the author of the memoir Sleeping with Cats and fifteen novels, including Three Women and Woman on the Edge of Time, as well as sixteen books of poetry, including Colors Passing Through Us, The Art of Blessing the Day, and Circles on the Water. She lives on Cape Cod, with her husband, Ira Wood, the novelist and publisher of Leapfrog Press.

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Sleeping with Cats 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This wonderful memoir compares favorably with The Liars Club by Mary Karr and All Over But the Shouting by Rick Bragg...both famous prize winning pieces. I bought it for the genre and the 'Cats' because anyone who loves them loves to read of the love of them....a club few are chosen to join. This memoir has a thousand times more honesty and love in it than I could have imagined a soul to bear to part with and share in a memoir. A must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great chronicle of the rise of a major poet/novelist from the depths of detroit, with interesting glimpses of leftist politics in the sixties and seventies. A political activist with a passionate sexual nature, piercy unabashedly admits to sleeping not just with cats but basically anything with pants or a skirt. After not inconsiderable experience, she informs us that she is basically heterosexual although she knows people, she says, that swing both ways with equal ease. Good news for her current live-in, Woody - although she banishes him to a separate bed most nights (he's a tossn'turner). Each chapter is capped by a poem, which sets a nice flow. Piercy throws in interlude chapters to digress to the present and talk serious cats. This also works well and softens the edge of a memoir of a sometimes hard-edged, abrasive personality.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*He shakes his head and dissapears, leaving behind a single gray feather*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*goes down to ruins and puts her hand on the ground. The walls talk to her all at the same time*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Greece?