Cats I’ve Encountered in Books Recently

Even when it’s not a book that’s specifically about cats, cats often seem to turn up in my reading. Maybe it’s simply that I look out for them more since I became a cat owner several years ago. Here are some of the quotes, scenes or whole books featuring cats that I’ve come across this year.

 

Cats real and imaginary

Readers see some of the action from the perspective of Polanski the cat in The Plimsoll Line by Juan Gracia Armendáriz. While the feline might not grasp the emotional importance of the scenes he witnesses, we do. “The cat narrows its eyes when it sees the man lean against the window frame, overcome by a fit of sobbing that has nothing to do with sadness, or sorrow, but with an internal crumbling, like the collapse of a wave breaking on the shore of his skin and sweeping away his memory.”

From Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett: “Anna was disturbed by the arrival at the front door of the milk-girl. Alternately with her father, she stayed at home on Sunday evenings, partly to receive the evening milk and partly to guard the house. The Persian cat with one ear preceded her to the door as soon as he heard the clatter of the can. The stout little milk-girl dispensed one pint of milk into Anna’s jug, and spilt an eleemosynary supply on the step for the cat. ‘He does like it fresh, Miss,’ said the milk-girl, smiling at the greedy cat, and then, with a ‘Lovely evenin’,’ departed down the street, one fat red arm stretched horizontally out to balance the weight of the can in the other.”

From Kilvert’s Diary by Francis Kilvert: “Toby [the cat] sits before the fire on the hearthrug and now and then jumps up on my knee to be stroked. The mice scurry rattling round the wainscot and Toby darts off in great excitement to listen and watch for them.” (18 Oct. 1870)

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami starts with a missing cat. “So now I had to go cat hunting. I had always liked cats. And I liked this particular cat. But cats have their own way of living. They’re not stupid. If a cat stopped living where you happened to be, that meant it had decided to go somewhere else. If it got tired and hungry, it would come back. Finally, though, to keep Kumiko happy, I would have to go looking for our cat. I had nothing better to do.”

I’m also 64 pages into Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore; in Chapter 6 we meet another seeker of lost cats, Nakata, when he has an absurd conversation with a black cat named Otsuka. (Perhaps he’s the creature pictured on the cover of my paperback?)

 

 

Picture books

Doorkins the Cathedral Cat by Lisa Gutwein: This sweet children’s book tells the true story of how a stray cat wandered into London’s Southwark Cathedral in 2008 and gradually made it her home. It proceeds day by day through one week to give a helpful idea of the range of activities the cathedral hosts – everything from a wedding to a regular Sunday service – but also showcases important events like visits from the Bishop and the Queen. In every case we get to see how Doorkins insinuates herself into proceedings. I liked how the bright colors of the illustrations echo the cathedral’s stained glass, and appreciated the photo gallery and extra information at the end. The author, a doctor whose husband is a verger at the cathedral, and illustrator Rowan Ambrose, a dentist, met at King’s College London, where I used to work.

The Church Mice in Action by Graham Oakley: My third from the series, I think. The mice suggest to the parson’s sister that she might enter Sampson into cat shows to earn enough to repair the church roof. They then do their best to rig the results, but couldn’t have predicted the consequences. I loved the late summer/onset of autumn atmosphere.

 

On the extreme reluctance to remove a cat from one’s lap.

From The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë: Miss Millward, Eliza’s older sister and the vicar’s daughter, when he passes her a ball of wool that’s rolled under the table – “Thank you, Mr. Markham. I would have picked it up myself, only I did not want to disturb the cat.”

From the essay “On Cat-Worship” in George Mikes’s How to Be Decadent: “Having joked for decades about how the English worship the cat, like the ancient Egyptians only more so, I have fallen for the cat myself. It has become my sacred animal. … I have been late for appointments, failed to go shopping and missed planes because Tsi-Tsa was sitting on my lap.”

 

Other cat-themed reading on the horizon:

  • The Cat Who Stayed for Christmas by Cleveland Amory, borrowed from the public library, should make a good pre-holiday read.
  • I’m keen to get hold of The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, which comes out in November.
  • My husband gave me a copy of Tom Cox’s The Good, the Bad and the Furry for my birthday.
  • I have Jason Hazeley’s The Fireside Grown-Up Guide to the Cat and Thomas McNamee’s The Inner Life of Cats on my Kindle.
  • It’s not particularly geared towards cat lovers (see Eleanor’s review), but it is called My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci and is also on my Kindle.
  • I have copies of Cats in May by Doreen Tovey plus a couple of anthologies of cat-related writing picked up in Hay-on-Wye.
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28 thoughts on “Cats I’ve Encountered in Books Recently

  1. Although I like cats, I’ve never knowingly sought out a cat-themed book. I make an exception in the case of poor Sampson and the raw deal he generally gets at the hands of the Church Mice. Time to meet the Cathedral Cat, maybe? And not, definitely not any cat celebrated in the work of Haruki Murakami

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    1. I have you to thank for introducing me to the Church Mice. I think there are a few more in the local library I will try to track down (but it being the kids’ section, they are never on shelf where I expect them to be). Do seek out Doorkins. It might be age appropriate for your littlest grandson?

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  2. I especially love the quotes on the reluctance of removing a cat from your lap. That goes on a lot around here… a good excuse for us to pass on a chore to someone else. Also, I have lost sleep over not wanting to move in my bed and disturb the cat. 🙂

    Have you ever read the Slinky Malinki books (for kids) by Lynley Dodd?

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    1. The Mikes passage in particular cracked me up. We call it being “in-cat-acitated” when the cat is on one of our laps and the other one has to go fetch things 🙂 And I know well that feeling of not daring to move, even when I’m not completely comfortable, lest the cat jump down from the bed!

      No, I’ve not heard of them. I’ll go look them up!

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  3. Having just finished Angel, with its array of persian cats in the second half, I gobbled up this feast of feline titbits. And several have wandered across to my ever-lengthening list of tbrs… 🙂

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    1. Thanks! It’s my fourth cats post on the blog, but this time I mostly avoided doing a string of mini-reviews. I don’t know that mystery series, but my mom and I used to love the Lilian Jackson Braun “Cat Who…” books. I keep meaning to reread them and see if I still like them as much.

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    1. We had cats and dogs when I was growing up, but more often dogs. I’d always thought of myself as a dog person and, if we’re honest, my husband and I would love to have a dog too, but we’ve always lived in rented accommodation where pets were usually not allowed at all. Only in our last two places has the landlord been willing to consider a cat, so we adopted one a few years ago.

      I do have a few favorite dog books. Perhaps I’ll put together a post on other animals in books in the future 🙂

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  4. I hadn’t realised how prominent cats are in Murakami’s work until I read 1Q84, which I actually listened to rather than read, which seems impossible because it’s like 100 hours long (or may as well be, but, then, I relistened to it too). Other cat writers? Ursula K Le Guin’s Catwings series (illustrated, a la Oakley, but different). Doris Lessing. May Sarton. I like posts about all animals…count me in. 🙂

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