Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Meaning of Algren's Cats

J.G.'s item on Simone de Beauvoir reminded us of our visit a few years ago to Serendipity Books in Berkeley, Calif., and a fascinating scrap of knowledge we gained there on author Nelson Algren, who had what's been called a "transatlantic affair" with Beauvoir.

Algren won the very first National Book Award for fiction in 1950 with The Man With the Golden Arm. It was Algren's custom to autograph the book's title page not with his signature, but with a drawing of a cat.

Peter Howard, the owner of Serendipity, was kind enough to show us several examples. In the process, he pointed out that some of the cats were drawn from behind, with their backs to the reader. The popular theory, Howard said, is that a bitter and broken-hearted Algren began drawing his cats that way after Beauvoir ended their relationship, turning her back on him, so to speak.

Postscript: When Beauvoir died in 1986, she was buried wearing a silver ring given to her by Algren.

1 comment:

  1. How very interesting. It just goes to show everyone has a story.


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