Book Review: Claw The System

Claw The System:  Poems From The Cat Uprising, by Francesco Marciuliano

This book disturbed me, and I found that somewhat disconcerting given the author’s work on cat poetry.  To be sure, after having read five previous works by the author [1], one has an idea that the author likes using animals as a way of presenting human beings with a mirror on ourselves and our own conduct.  Yet rarely has this been as unpleasant a mirror as it is here, where the author imagines cats fed up by human incompetence and determined to wrest power in a violent revolution that uses only slightly edited Communist and other revolutionary propaganda to set the mood.  If one imagined liberal fascist antifa cats writing poems about their seizure of property and their uprising over the political problems of our age, then you can visualize the tone of this book of poetry which is mercifully short at less than 100 pages.  Yet although it is shorter than the rest of the books by the author, this is a book that is far more disturbing, because thinking of revolutionary cats is far more disturbing and unpleasant than thinking about how cats and dogs view their lives and the beings around them.

This book is divided into four parts, each of them a word starting with ‘r’:  recognize, resist, revolt, and rebuild.  Here we see cats spurred to rebellion by the fierce political discussions of the human beings around them.  They imagine themselves biting and scratching human beings for rubbing their belly rather than letting the cat sun itself in peace.  There is the use of a bell collar as a torture devise to make lovemaking less pleasant for human beings.  There is the question of the difference between how dogs view beings as an other while cats view them as another being.  There is the insistence of cats in having human beings see them from their point of view.  We see cats discussing how they hold in their anger at having to deal with their treatment at the hands of people, the push back cats give when someone pulls on their tails, or the feeling of hostility towards someone who buys lots of wicker furniture and no scratching posts, even if cats do not always use the scratching posts that are bought for them.  Besides the poems, many of which are strikingly dark, there are plenty of photos of malevolent looking cats, as one would expect here.

What was the author trying to accomplish with this volume?  Clearly he was tapping into the ugly political mood of our times and looking at cats feeling as restive and hostile as many other people.  In many cases, what the cats are complaining about are things that a reasonable-minded person would agree are cruel, even if the person is not a particular cat-lover.  It is cruel to pull the tails of cats, political discussions can be deeply distressing, and the fact that someone is laying down with their belly exposed does not mean they want that belly to be patted.  Boundaries are important, and like many people cats like people and other beings looking up at them and listening to them and responding to their requests and not ignoring them or taking them for granted.  These poems reflect a high degree of dissatisfaction that cats have with their lives, and one can easily see within it the sort of dissatisfaction that many people have with their lives and their treatment at the hands of others.  But is revolt the answer?  Are there not better ways of communicating unhappiness with the chance of resolving it without taking drastic and destructive steps?

[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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