Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Fur Person

When I say this is the best cat book ever, I mean it. I have read a few in my time (Doris Lessing has a good one, Particularly Cats . . . and Rufus), but this is my favorite. I've even given it as a gift to some of my cat-loving friends.

One of the best things about it is the tone of quiet, respectful amusement. May Sarton (yes, that May Sarton, poet and novelist) tells the story of Tom Jones, who survives his early adventures on the street as a Cat about Town and becomes a Gentleman Cat in search of a housekeeper. After choosing Brusque Voice and Gentle Voice, he learns the joys of home-cooked meals, catnip, and laps. (He also stays with Vladimir Nabokov and his wife while the housekeepers are on sabbatical.)

Sarton is a keen observer of the ways of cats. I particularly like the description of a young Tom Jones sitting in front of a door: "He became a single ever-more-powerful WISH TO GET OUT." She seems to understand that relations between humans and cats involve mutuality of interest more than obligation or ownership.

This is not to say that love doesn't enter into it. There's no question that the two kind ladies love Tom Jones, and that he loves them. But he is himself, too. It's that transformative combination of love and freedom that allow Tom Jones to become a Fur Person.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, now I'm going to have to find that book... I know of May Sarton through several of my favorite quotations, and I've read a bit about her life in the past. I believe she lived in New Hampshire, where she is buried. Thanks for the book review!... Donna @ An Enchanted Cottage

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