Monday, 13 January 2014

Puss in Books

What is it about cats?

I recently had cause to check on the collective noun for a group of cats and found to my astonishment, TEN different variations (dogs had to be content with three). There's just something about them that - depending on your view - fascinates, attracts, repulses or compels. If you've noticed, people are rarely ambivalent about cats. We either love them or hate them. As you know, I am firmly in the 'love them' category. In fact, they see me coming and immediately raise their collective eyebrows and go, 'here comes another sucker'.
The collective nouns, in some cases, reflect the strong reactions we have to them. While for dogs, the offerings were the fairly mundane 'pack', 'kennel' and 'litter' (of puppies), some of the choices for cats were much more emotive: 'glaring', 'nuisance', 'destruction' (of wild cats), 'clutter', for example, sat alongside the tamer 'clowder', 'litter' (of kittens), and 'pounce'.

When it comes to literature, we find cats helping their nice - but inclined to be a bit slow on the uptake - humans to solve crimes, in a string of highly entertaining series (well, they are if you're an ailurophile!).

For my money, first and foremost of these was 'The Cat Who...' series by the late and much missed Lilian Jackson Braun. The two Siamese - Yum Yum and  Koko - possess an almost psychic ability to suss out whodunnit and make their human, veteran journalist Jim Qwilleran, look almost as clever as Hercule Poirot. As with Midsomer Murders, you do begin to wonder why on earth anyone would want to live in the murderous township of Moose County, but that's not important right now. The cats are gorgeous, clever, intuitive and actually do behave like cats. Even if Yum Yum does possess rather more manual dexterity than any cat I have ever met. Mind you, I do know how inventive Siamese can be...

Then, along came Joanne Fluke with her delicious stories set in small town Minnesota and her sleuth, Hannah Swensen, who bakes such mouthwatering cookies, she had to open a shop to fulfil demand. In between inventing tasty new recipes (which she shares with her readers), she solves murder after murder in yet another town it would be well to avoid if you value your life. In her case, the cat in question is an enormous ginger specimen called Moishe, who I will forgive for his slightly less than feline habit of trusting his human enough to fling himself into her arms.

Other examples include The Cat In The Stacks series by Miranda James, Ali Brandon's Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series, The Magical Cats Mystery books by Sofie Kelly and a whole host more, frequently set in bookshops and libraries. In addion, cat sleuths are anthropomorphised in Anne H. Petzer's Feline Intelligence, Czech Republic stories, set in Prague.

When they're not solving crimes, cats can be found in timeless classics such as Paul Gallico's enchanting Jennie, and telling their own rags to riches tales (tails?) in Susan Fromberg Schaeffer's The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat.

And they have inspired horror writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King

They have also been at the heart of some of the most hilarious real life stories I have ever read. If you haven't caught up with any of Deric Longden's tales of living with his cats, you've missed a treat. Fortunately, you can remedy this, as they are still all in print (I think!)

So, love 'em or hate'em, you simply can't ignore them - and don't forget, when two or more kittens are gathered together, you've got yourself a kindle!

































13 comments:

  1. Gosh Antonia.... I can't imagine how you came to do that. Btu I am glad you did or we wouldn't have this great post on moggies,x

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    1. Ah, personally I blame a combination of a certain blog http://shehannemoore.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/when-security-is-at-stake-who-we-gonna-call/#comments in which, thankfully, no pussies were harmed. And, the irrepressible Ms Noelle Clark, a visitor from the Antipodes, who can usually be found, basking in the sunshine http://www.noelleclark.blogspot.co.uk/

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    2. And I heartily recommend both writers named above (Shehanne Moore and Noelle Clark) both of whom have fabulous new books either just out, or just coming out. Paste in the links in my reply above, and give yourself a treat!

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  2. And it was Incy Black who put the notion of a 'destruction' of cats into Dev's mouth. Then I found all the others. You need to check her out. Another fab writer; http://incyblack.weebly.com/1/post/2014/01/blatant-duplication-almost.html

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  3. Shesh, blow my cover why don't you. LOL. Now for your next challenge: still with cats, research all sexual references which draw upon our feline friends, providing a history and explanation...see you in a few months ;) xxxx

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    1. There's gold in running a cattery. (Salisbury? Please tell me you didn't go to Godolphin)

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  4. That was so much fun to read. And serious that much ways to describe a bunch of cats together
    Uhmm need to to see if I made a mistake somewhere in that story of mine.
    Oh well everything sounds better than what crows have to do with.

    Thanks for the smile Milady van Zandt

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  5. Great post. I like you share a love of the Cat Who series.

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    1. Thanks, jolliffe01. LJB is sorely missed!

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