Book Review: Mark Twain For Cat Lovers

Mark Twain For Cat Lovers:  True And Imaginary Adventures With Feline Friends, edited by Mark Dawidziak

I’m not sure the extent that I could be considered a cat lover.  I’m not someone who has tended to ever have a lot of pets, but at the same time I certainly enjoy reading about cats [1].  This book, like many books written about cats, has a lot to say about the people who love cats as well as the furry and imperious animals themselves.  And I find much to enjoy in reading about the way cats are shown in Twain’s work but that still does not make me a real fan of cats in the way that Twain or many other readers of this book will be, and I’m okay with that.  Obviously, those who are fond of Mark Twain’s writing, especially those who are interested in his more obscure writings, will find much to enjoy here as well.  Given that this is the second book by the author that I have read that relates to Mark Twain, it is fair to say that the editor has considerable interest and knowledge about the writings of Twain and that definitely serves him well here.

This book of about 200 pages or so is composed of forty excerpts from the writings of Twain involving cats divided into six parts.  The first part of the book consists of cats who eat coconuts, smoke cigars, and get blown up in eight excerpts (I), some of them taken from life and some of them fictionalized, and many of them relating to the author’s travels.  The next ten excerpts, including at least one written by one of Clemens’ daughters, look at the way that no home to the author was complete without a cat (II).  This extended to the practice of Twain renting cats from neighboring farmers when he was without a cat of his own.  The next twelve excerpts deal with the insight of the cats taken from Twian’s writings where he attempts to convey his understanding of them to others.  After this come three reflections on what dead cats are good for (IV), four examinations of Twain’s thoughts on larger cats like lions and tigers (V), and three explorations on there being no such thing as ordinary cats (VI).  One of the excerpts included in the book was a discussion from a reporter who wasted a whole day trying to have a conversation about a missing cat of the author’s, not realizing that the author was no particular fan of reporters and generally didn’t like talking to them.

By and large the excerpts included here were enjoyable to read.  One gets a sense from them that Mark Twain was very fond of cats and that he appreciates their prickly and fussy natures very much.  Yet although this is the sort of insight that one would expect from a book like this, there are other insights as well that are worthwhile and more unexpected.  Twain’s love of a good yarn led him to twist even nonfiction stories about cats, so that a story that took place in Hawaii was written as if it happened in Thailand, when the author apparently never visited there.  Likewise, Twain was always on the lookout for the goings on of cats, big and small, and animals in general as providing useful stories for him to write.  A person who is observant as to stories to write about will seldom lack for material to write about, and that was the case for Clemens, to be sure.  There are plenty of touching stories here, such as Twain’s fondness for having kittens in the corner pocket and for the names that his cats ended up with, some of which were quite entertaining.  This is a worthwhile book for Twain fans as well as cat fans.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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