Sunday, December 17, 2006

Reader's Diary #204- T.S. Eliot: Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats (FINISHED)

T.S. Eliot is one of those poets everyone seems to know. Yet I've never known any of his work except "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and I have a passing familiarity with "The Waste Lands" (which I have to admit is only via Stephen King). So I went out to get more acquainted with the chap.

Perhaps I could have done without Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. It's quirky, but not enough so keep this reader's attention (not even for a mere 64 pages). Eliot's joke seems to be assigning anthropomorphic attributes to cats. For anyone with a cat (self included) that is not a difficult task. Mine for instance, is a slightly bitter fellow, who seems to think it's just me and him against the world.

It is said that Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats was written for children. Perhaps some children would be interested in the work. There are some pretty inventive rhymes and rhyme schemes but the language is sometimes dated and mature. Though perhaps words like "ineffable" would intimidate children no more than fiffer-feffer-feff, and maybe doesn't need to be treated with any more seriousness than any imaginary Seuss creature.

Also disappointing were the Edward Gorey illustrations. As I've blogged about in an earlier post, one of the charms of Gorey's work is the underlying sinister feel. Here I'm afraid his talents were wasted and his work seems lackluster and uninspired.

On a couple of interesting side notes, while checking up a bit of background information for this blog I discovered that this book was the basis for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Cats"- how do I miss this stuff? I also came across this humorous blog posting- much funnier than Eliot's work.

The opening poem, "The Naming Of Cats", is one of the better poems in the book. It reminded me of a certain section of Sullivan's The Dying Days actually. It made me want to pose a question to any cat-lovers out there: What is your cat's name? And why did you choose it?

My cat is "Touton". My wife and I got him about a month before we originally moved to Nunavut and we wanted a name that reminded us of where we came from. Anyone from Newfoundland will know what a touton is, but for the uninformed, I'll let you do the legwork and check out the link to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. Here is Touton in his Christmas glory:


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Awww Touton is a pretty boy, even if he doesn't look remotely like a fried pancake.

I had no idea that this book was the basis for Cats either. I'd be interested to browse through this actually.

John Mutford said...

The "fried pancake" definition supplied by the Newfoundland Dictionary is a little inaccurate to what I grew up with. Toutons were balls of dough (leftovers from breadmaking usually, not enough to get a loaf) fried in rendered pork fat. Yummy.

Christina said...

I didn't know that it was the basis for Cats either...until I went to see Cats! :) That little tidbit was included in the program.

John Mutford said...

You know we're all waiting for it to come up in Trivia Pursuit now right.