A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
As an animal lover, I was really looking forward to this topical little volume. Boy, was I disappointed! For one thing, at least a fourth of the offerings were about the demise of a cat. One of them, by Thomas Grey, was so detailed in how a family cat drowned in a goldfish pond, that I wondered if the author had actually witnessed how many times the cat surfaced, crying for help and did nothing. In The Retired Cat William Cowper describes how a cat falling asleep in a linen drawer is trapped there by a maid shutting the drawer & is only rescued in the middle of the night. Some of these poems have a “word to the wise” tone, but Thomas Hardy, of all people, is genuinely mourning the loss of his pet, seeing him everywhere, in the touching Last Words to a Dumb Friend. Christina Rossetti is another who truly misses her departed pet.
Though there are works here from Chaucer to Goethe to Dickenson, at times the collection seems generated by a computer search engine. H.P. Lovecraft’s poem uses the word cat, but is definitely not about them. Baudelaire tries to be lascivious, but is bested by Oscar Wilde in The Sphinx, a sensual time travel piece about cats witnessing Ancient civilizations from Egypt, Rome and Assyria. There is the expected The Owl and the Pussycat and several well known nursery rhymes, but others which ought to be here, such as the Irish Pangur Ban are not. Wild cats are included, best represented by Rilke’s splendid The Panther, from the mind of a zoo animal. There are several whimsical poems from Wordsworth about kittens and two poems which were new to me. One O’Clock by Katherine Lyle, about a cat walking through a house full of sleeping people and The Duel, Eugene Field’s amusing tale of a toy cat and dog having a vicious fight. Had there been more of those sorts of poems and far fewer about dying cats, I would’ve enjoyed this book a lot more. At this point, I feel as if there should be a warning label on it, to steer other sensitive souls away from it. In lieu of that, my review will have to serve.
Deadtree Publishing 2014 32 pp. ISBN 9781783948031