Allison's Book Bag

The Literary Cat, Compiled by Walter Chandoha

Posted on: September 11, 2015

TheLiteraryCatWhen browsing books at a fund-raiser by a local cat rescue, it seems fitting that I would pick up books about cats. My latest is an older book of about 200 pages that is filled with stories, essays, poems, and excerpts all related to the feline. Besides the topic, what attracted me to The Literary Cat is that many of the entries are by well-known classic authors. As an added bonus, at least every second page contains an illustrative photograph.

Growing up, most of my animal books fell into these categories: dogs, horses, wild. Very few cat books graced my shelves which didn’t bother me at the time due to my being devoted to canines. After an affectionate stray named Lucy came into my life, my whole pet perspective changed. Hence, I now better appreciate stories such as The Cat That Walked by Himself by Rudyard Kipling. This tale tells of how in the beginning, The Woman picked out a dry cave and the Man happily fell asleep with her in front of their cave fire, and thus the two became tame. Out in the wet woods, the wild animals watched. Then one-by-one they visited and exchanged services for the opportunity to live in comfort with Man and Woman. All except the Cat. Yet even Cat desired the positive attention of Man and Woman. Just on its own terms. And so Cat tricked Man and Woman.

Prior to Lucy, I had already begun visiting a nearby no-kill shelter, where I would pet and groom some of the more needy dogs. As I became more comfortable with a cat living in my home, I started to split my time at the shelter between cats and dogs. Without realizing it, I found myself becoming a cat person. Hence, I now better appreciate essays such as A Leave Taking, in which author Jean Burden writes of sharing life with a thirteen-year-old ginger tabby named Cinnamon. Paragraph after paragraph reveal memories of a shy but adoring cat who would scoot under the bed during company but jump on the bed next to Burden when alone again. Pain was everywhere the day Burden lost his best friend to cancer. In addition to the multiple personal essays about cats, there are also more formal observations penned by other cat experts and even naturalists.

After I lost Lucy to kidney disease and other complications, I got more involved with animal rescue. We fostered a senior dog. I started to help feed feral colonies. And, of course, more cats came into life. Hence, I now also better appreciate all the whimsical and serious poems scattered throughout the pages of The Literary Cat. There are ones by the likes of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Sir Walter Scott. Also, Odgen Nash wisely reminds readers:

“The trouble with a kitten is THAT
Eventually it comes a
CAT.”

Besides the mix of short and long poems, there are also one-liners and paragraphs by other esteemed authors. Shakespeare credits cats with being vigilant, while Andrew Lang muses about the contemplative life of cats, and Mark Twain notes that a home without a cat may be a perfect one but “how can it prove its title”?

The Literary Cat, compiled and illustrated by nature photographer by Walter Chandoha, has some limitations. It lacks a table of contents. Many authors are unknown names, except perhaps in cat circles. Photos are limited to black-and-white.

At the same time, The Literary Cat is an entertaining and thought-provoking potpourri of literature about our feline friends. Some entries will reveal how little times have changed. Society still hasn’t found the solution to roaming cats. Others will show how much times have. More and more people now recognize that cats enjoy the indoor life. For me, I enjoyed this one-volume collection that celebrates cats.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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2 Responses to "The Literary Cat, Compiled by Walter Chandoha"

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee

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