Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Oh, Those Fabulous, Furry Felines

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At this time of year, our cat Cosimo is either stretched out on my desk under my desk lamp, curled up on a heating grate, snuggled under a duvet or lounging on a laptop. Anyone who knows me is likely amazed that I have waited this long to post a blog about cats.

As Mark Twain said, “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.” Edward Gorey explained, “Books. Cats. Life is good.” and my friend Karen, who is a wonderful writer, editor and grammarian, would agree wholeheartedly (while rubbing her cat Stanley’s speckled belly).

From Ernest Hemingway and his polydactyl (six-toed) cats to T.S. Eliot and his Jellicle cats, many writers seem to have a special affinity for cats. Could it be because we secretly long to laze about on velvet pillows all day, with people bringing us treats that we barely deign to acknowledge? Is it just me, or does that sound wonderful?

Some writers find cats are essential to their careers. “I write so much because my cat sits on my lap,” says Joyce Carol Oates. “She purrs so I don’t want to get up.” No one wants to risk the wrath of a disturbed cat. Do you think that open file you kept meaning to save disappeared by accident? And just why does your tuxedo tom look so smug?

Here’s what a few other writers had to say about cats:

“That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” — Ray Bradbury

“My relationship with cats has saved me from a deadly, pervasive ignorance.” — William S. Burroughs

“‘My young friend,’ I said, ‘if you want to be a psychological novelist and write about human beings, the best thing you can do is to keep a pair of cats.’” — Aldous Huxley

“If a fish is the movement of water embodied, given shape, then a cat is a diagram and pattern of subtle air.” — Doris Lessing

“I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.” — Edgar Allan Poe

And what do authors Neil Gaiman, Jean Paul Sartre (and if you don’t yet know Henri le Chat Noir on youtube, prepare to meet another great Existentialist), Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, George Plimpton and many more have in common? You guessed it: they’re cat lovers.

Hmm … this post needs more Canadian content. I could talk about my book Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?, but instead I’ll describe an eerie experience Lucy Maud Montgomery had with Daff, one of her many cats. (This is the second time I’ve mentioned Maud in my blogs. Can you tell I’ve written two books about her and often re-read her stories?)

Maud had been devastated to lose her beloved cousin Frederica Campbell Macfarlane (Frede) in January 1919 to the Spanish flu. As she sat weeping one night, she begged Frede to return and give her the comfort of a message.

She wrote,
“Frede,” I whispered pleadingly, “if you are here make Daff come over to me and kiss me.”
Daff never offers any caresses or seeks or enjoys petting. Yet it is the actual truth that hardly had I spoken when Daff walked gravely across the floor to me, lifted his forepaws and placed them on my shoulders, and touched my cheek with his mouth. Moreover, he did it twice.” (from The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. II)

Two of my favourite cat blogs (okay, besides icanhas.cheezburger.com/lolcats) are
http://boomerandteikas.blogspo...
http://cherrystreetcats.blogsp...

I really admire Connie and Robin, the two bloggers. They would be happy to introduce you to a cat that needs a home, so you have a chance to become as famous as feline fanatics Stephen King, Colette, W.H. Auden …

And Another Thing …
Many freelance writers and other artists listen to CBC radio as they work. I often recognize the names or voices of friends phoning in as I listen. It was on this day in 1901 that Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first transatlantic radio signal, sent from to Poldhu, Cornwall, to Signal Hill in St John’s, Newfoundland.

Marconi only sent the Morse code letter “s” (three clicks), but he went on to become known as the inventor of the radio. He shared the 1909 Nobel Physics Prize with Karl Ferdinand Braun “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy.”

And where would rock and roll be without the radio?

Thanks for reading.

1 comment

"A diagram and pattern of subtle air." Lovely. Doris Lessing had a way with words. And her cat had a way with Doris, seemingly. Having read some Neil Gaiman of late, it all starts to make sense now that you have revealed his muse, not to mention Sartre's sinister source of 'stentialist suffering. And I am a little surprised you went the cat route this early in December. I figured you'd save the best until last! Thanks for writing! And for the reminder of Henri's online omnipresence. Good stuff.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Elizabeth MacLeod

Award-winning author Elizabeth MacLeod has written over 50 books for children. Her most recent book, Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries, was published by Annick Press.

Go to Elizabeth MacLeod’s Author Page