REVIEWS: Cats of Practical Books

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1995:

The Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse: Immortal Poems by the Cats of
the Major Poets, by Henry Beard. Villard Books (201 East 50th St., New York, NY 10022), 1994.
96 pages, illustrated. $12.95.
That Henry Beard! The author of French for
Cats, a mini-masterpiece that every cat-lover surely knows
well, Beard has just outdone himself, and everyone else,
and undone anyone who attempts to read his latest aloud
without cracking up. He has rollicked through the classic
poems of the English language with the abandon, the non-
chalance, the grace and distinction turned to a sort of dig-
nified whoopee of the sedatest of cats romping through a
catnip field. Beard would have us believe the poems in
Poetry For Cats were written by the cats of major men and
women of letters. Perhaps. I mean, purrhaps. In that
case, however, the poets purloined the styles of their pets.

These gems range from the Old English (Beocat)
to Allen Ginsberg’s cat’s M e o w l. There are nearly 40 to
take delight in. I particularly liked The End Of The Raven,
by Edgar Allen Poe’s cat, and John Donne’s cat’s offering,
Vet, Be Not Proud. Maybe it was my mood of the day,
but I was also much taken with Dylan Thomas’ cat’s D o
Not Go Peaceable To That Damn Vet. Or how about the
lyrical C o t t o n t a i l s, a version of D a f f o d i l s, which may
have been the original inspiration. Who can say?
Poetry For Cats belongs everywhere there is an
anthology or an English lit text, or a bedside book, or a
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, or… I don’t know why any
of us are writing, when cats can do the job so admirably.
Obviously I am wrong to have barred mine from unreeling
my typewriter ribbon.
Dear Tabby: Feline Advice on Love, Life, and the Pursuit of Mice, by Leigh W.
Rutledge. Dutton (375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014), 1995. $10.95.
America’s favorite columnist now has a feline
counterpart. Written, one assumes, with the assistance of
the other 29 cats who live at author Leigh Rutledge’s Key
West home, Tabby advises harried cats, lovelorn cats, the
entire range of cats with their problems, an occasional
human, and a few dogs who try to sneak their correspon-
dence in as feline, but whom Tabby detects, for they woof
when they should meow.
A number of cats complain about the cutesy
names their humans try to tack on them. Do not expect
Tabby to dispense the soothing, peaceable wisdom of
Abigail Van Buren. This is a cat, and she knows well the
methods practiced by assertive cats, so some of her recom-
mended actions are not pretty. For example, a less-than-
immaculate litter box could be brought to an owner’s atten-
tion by substituting his clean underwear drawer.
As in the newspaper, some answers draw forth a
spate of commenting letters from readers, then other topics
fill the column, after which some late polemicist responds.
The book is a small hardback, as spiffy in its white and red
binding as a Persian kitten. It looks like a good item to
treat someone to as a mode of banishing winter doldrums.
Yourself, perhaps?
––Phyllis Clifton
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