Friday, 9 November 2012

Purr ardua ad astra

Trade was reasonably brisk at The Bookshop, Welwyn Garden, today. That ancient bookshop manager's cry, which has for countless ages rung out across the shelves in hope and apprehension: 

'Any sign of Christmas?

was answered with at least partial affirmation: 

'Yes, I think I saw a bit of it at lunchtime.'

Moreover, somebody bought my favourite novel, (and the best ever written, according to page 47 of the Book of Stuff that Just Is) The Third Policeman; 'Is it about a bicycle?' yes, and everything else besides.

One of the titles that has found particular favour with our customers is A Street Cat Named Bob, which seems to belong to a trend of cat and dog-based animal biographies.  I'm not going to wax cynical about this - frankly, compared to other such waves of books I've seen roll onto the shore of popularity in my various book-selling incarnations, such as Magic Eye and Irish misery memoirs, it's quite refreshing.  This phenomenon also lies behind the several recent prolonged absences of our own domestic goddess, Sally the Cat, (pictured below, impersonating books) from her hearth and home.  We discovered recently - by fortunate happenstance - that she's been meeting literary agents along our alley attempting to persuade them that her past conceals untold hardship and deprivation, and that they really ought to sign her up for a three-book deal with a 15% royalty on rrp globally. This is of course a piece of childish whimsy on my part; no publisher would actually countenance such terms.

Which brings me by a leafy, picturesque but indirect route,  containing many suitable areas for picnics, to my list of favourite literary cats.

Poetically, these have to be the enigmatic and eerie Minnaloushe, in Yeats' poem The Cat and the Moon

The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon,
The creeping cat, looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon...

and Jeoffry in Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart:

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.

It's harder to select from novels, as the genre is benignly infested with them, and they seem to be a particular favourite for the anthropomorphically-inclined scribe, so I have nominated one each from the following categories:

Most compellingly unsettling:  the god-like primal entities Mogget and Kerrigor in The Old Kingdom trilogy, by Garth Nix, which are bound into the forms of a black and a white cat;

Most silly (but enjoyably so): the cats in Felidae, a crime novel in which the victims, perpetrators and investigators are all...well...cats, albeit of the rare variety that are capable of speech and inductive reasoning and handy (pawy?) with computers;

Most romantic: a long out of print novel by the gloriously-named Dolf Wyllarde, called: Felise. A Story About a Cat By a Cat For Cats to Read, in which episodes in the titular cat's life, and especially her amorous adventures, are mirrored in those of her human companion (they both enjoy what is I believe in popular parlance termed 'a bit of rough' at one point).

I hope that among the countless works I have omitted to mention are favourites of yours about which you will evangelise in response.

Paws for thought?

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