The Bloater

This edition printed in:

A calico tabby with bright green eyes sits beside a vibrant green book with a neon yellow finger on it.

A Normal Week

After one of the worst weeks of my life, Bandersnatch is finally feeling much better. She’s almost herself, minus what’s due to a course of antibiotics to treat her UTI. That means she’s back to being the pesky little orange cat that I love — getting into everybody’s water glass, jumping on every cupboard, howling at all hours for playtime. She’s a terror, but she’s my terror. And there was a moment in the middle of a very long night where I held her very sick little body in my arms and thought I was going to lose her.

A tortoiseshell cat hunkers beside a vibrant green book with a neon yellow finger on it.

I’m so grateful to our veterinarian for all of the emergencies appointments and the procedures and the x-rays and the patience to deal with how upset and panicked I was at nearly every moment. I am also grateful to my lovely spouse for knowing exactly when it was time to bring Bandersnatch to the vet and somehow found the time to work while taking care of me and our sick little girl.

It was a tough week, but we got through it. Next week we start dealing with the last bit of Wesker’s diagnostics and then I sincerely hope to not have to go to the vet anytime soon — unless to pick up one of the three specialty foods we have in the house.

A tabby cat with a white stomach and brown nose sites beside a violently green book.

Some Background Information

I hadn’t heard about Rosemary Tonks until lately when I skimmed part of an article about her in The New Yorker. It wasn’t so much her style or subject matter that drew me to her work. It was the fact that she seemed so dead set on destroying it.

Rosemary Tonks' The Bloater has a vibrantly green cover, with a neon-yellow finger poking through a pink ring. The title and author name are handwritten on the ring.

As the tale goes, Tonks actually would check out her own books from libraries and then burn them in her back garden so that no one else could read them. Because I write, I understand the feeling of not liking your own work very much. Sometimes it’s really difficult to read things you’ve written only a year or so ago. However, I can’t imagine going to such lengths to destroy all of it. Tonks did leave the literary scene suddenly at the height of her career due to illness — so, in light of that, I can see wanting to divorce oneself from a section of life that one was abruptly ripped away from.

When I discovered that New Directions was publishing one of her novels — The Bloater — I couldn’t resist getting a copy. Just in case they became impossible to get all over again.

Behind the vibrantly yellow spine of The Bloater, a calico tabby cat can be seen.

A Frustratingly Petty Plot

On the surface, the plot of The Bloater is not very compelling. Min, a woman who works as a sound engineer for the BBC, both is attracted to and repelled by one man. He’s an opera singer who she refers to as ‘the bloater’, and she can’t decide whether she wants to have sex with him or not. While she agonizes, there are reflections about how much she can’t stand her husband and antics centred around her various friends and acquaintances.

The writing has moments of brilliance contained in how Tonks turns a phrase or describes a situation and its implications. However, I found it didn’t ultimately overcome just how petty the plot is or how utterly frustrating Min’s perspective is to read. There were also some technical flaws that stuck in my craw — such as how indistinguishable Min’s friends were from one another. Perhaps this was partially for comedic effect, but it somehow was lost on me. I was constantly flipping back and forth trying to sort out who was who.

A calico tabby sniffs a book. A yellow finger on the book pokes through a pink ring that reads: The Bloater * Rosemary Tonks.

Digging Deeper

However petty the plot might have been on its surface, it does have something to say if you peel back a few layers. Min is obsessed with the idea of being a strong, independent woman, and yet her life revolves around men and pleasing or disappointing them. She wants to be an intellectual, but her thoughts are primarily occupied with physical sensations (sex and food). She wants to further her career, but she’s lost in office politics.

Min is a walking set of contradictions, representing a contradictory moment in history where women were encouraged to have lives of their own, but were still expected to structure their lives around men. As a reflection of the time in which it was written, The Bloater is a read that is worthwhile. But I will warn that it should be approached with an understanding both of its context and the moment in time it is attempting to capture.

A calico tabby squints and lifts its nose into the air with its mouth a bit open. A green book is beside it.

My Noisy Little Mouse

Because we’ve had such a difficult time lately, my lovely spouse decided to spoil me with an extra book this week. She’s also been going out of her way to try to make the house peaceful and quiet so that I can relax and read.

But there’s something that happens when my lovely spouse tries so desperately to be quiet. She usually gets louder. I find it nearly unspeakably cute when this phenomenon happens and she gets a little extra clumsy. Dropping buttons and clattering kitchen utensils. Every once in a while I’ll hear her make a noise and then shush herself and it makes me just melt inside.

I love her so much, and her noise is always welcome — no matter how noisy it is. I am always unbelievably touched when she tries so hard to make my life easier. I am so lucky.

A calico tabby sniffs The Bloater by Rosemary Tonks and looks perplexed.

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