Writers and Their Cats
While it might seem that cats are the natural enemy of laptops, pens, and notebooks (or is it vice versa?), many a great writer has persevered through the distractions of poorly timed head butts and the old 'walk-across-the-keyboard' trick, potentially risking all their hard work, for the love of their cats.
And while we tend to have a more modern understanding of a writer's life, we will admit that all those romantic black and white photos of the writer of genius sitting at a mahogany desk with a cigarette, a cup of tea, and a cat curled up in their lap isn’t totally unappealing. So what do these feline companions provide to their writerly companions? We’re exploring the working relationships between seven writers and their cats: to discover exactly what it is about this pairing that makes us purr.
Known best for her feminist activism in the sixties and seventies, as well as her continuing voice in gender politics and intersectionality, Gloria Steinem is a force to be reckoned with. She is also known for her unwavering devotion to her cats, and has been photographed alongside her feline friends over decades to create some of her most iconic portraits. In a recent interview with American comedian Phoebe Robinson, in which Steinem gives her two-cents on the #MeToo movement, she talks about how she believes we should raise young women to be more like cats: “Have you ever tried to touch a cat? Cats don’t let you touch them. Cats tell you what they’re going to do, and that’s that.” Now that’s the kind of attitude we can get behind.
T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound
Essayist, publisher, poet, and critic T.S. Eliot is likely the first person you think of when contemplating obscure modernist poetry, and possibly the last person you think of when considering cat literature. However in 1939 he published a book of light prose called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which was later adapted into the stage play Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The book was thought to have been written for his friend, cat lover Ezra Pound, whose three cats remained his companions until the end of his life. In Pound’s poem “Tame Cat” he wrote: “The purring of the invisible antennae / is both stimulating and delightful.”
Whether you’ve got a feline friend at home inspiring your work or not, we’re behind you. We want to motivate you to free your story and take you where you want to go. Take a look at our Manuscript Assessment page, or let Kate walk you through it in Vlog Episode 1: What Does a Manuscript Assessment Do? to better understand what this service can do for your work.
Twentieth-century French writer Colette conveyed her special love of cats through one of her most notable works, La Chatte, which tells the story of a love triangle between a woman, a man, and his cat: a symbol for his childhood. As an artist and an independent thinker, Colette embodied much of the strong-willed and aloof nature she admired in her own cats through her work, her open sexuality, and her legacy as a bold writer.
Cats are a popular feature in author Neil Gaiman’s work, including the short story “A Dream of a Thousand Cats,” his graphic novel Creatures of the Night, and his novella Coraline. Inspired by the adventures of his own cats, which he often journals about on his website, Gaiman exemplifies what it is to have a true, lasting connection with his animals as we see in his work time and time again.
The incredible poet Neruda had a few things to say about cats in his career as a celebrated poet, most famous of which is his “Ode to the Cat.” He had this to say about his admiration for his feline friends in another poem “Cat’s Dream”:
“I should like to sleep like a cat,
with all the fur of time,
with a tongue rough as flint,
with the dry sex of fire;
and after speaking to no one,
stretch myself over the world,
over roofs and landscapes,
with a passionate desire
to hunt the rats in my dreams.”
If you feel like taking a little highbrow with your popular culture, visit Neruda Cats: a tumblr blog that turns Neruda’s lines into cat memes. We recommend.
Joyce Carol Oates
For American writer Joyce Carol Oates, cats serve as an inspirational subject for her work. Her most notable cat-related collection is called The Sophisticated Cat, a collection of work by other classic and contemporary writers, poets, and artists which highlights people’s ongoing fascination and kinship with these unflappable creatures. Other cat-related works of Oates’s include The White Cat (her response to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat), and a postmodern ode to her cat, Cherie, grandly titled “Jubilate: An Homage in Catterel* Verse”.