In addition to hearing Michael Ondaatje discuss The Cat’s Table, Stratford actors Cynthia Dale and Tom McManus read two separate passages of the acclaimed novel. When asked why those particular selections had been chosen, Ondaatje admitted that he found it difficult to read from that part of the novel. In previous readings, he stuck to the first section which follows the early lives of three feral boys on a ship bound for England.
Ondaatje is definitely a pantser–he writes by the seats of his pants and does not create lengthy outlines. In this case, he had only an idea in mind: a young boy is traveling by himself on a ship bound for England. In an earlier interview, he admitted: “Some authors know what the last sentence is going to be before they begin–I don’t even know what the second sentence is going to be.”
Another audience member asked if The Cat’s Table is a personal one. Ondaatje hedged and stated that all novels are personal. He made a similar journey during his youth, but he doesn’t recall too many details about it. While writing, he discovers different aspects of his life and often creates more interesting adventures, especially when writing about childhood.
Nominated for last year’s Giller Award, The Cat’s Table is one of five novels written by the author who started out as a poet. Michael Ondaatje is best know for The English Patient which was later adapted into an Academy Award winning movie.