The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

March 21, 2016

March 21, 1903

Frank Sargeson (March 21, 1903 to March 1, 1982) the New Zealand writer, was well-known as a cat lover. His inclusion in the book The Cat's Whiskers: New Zealand Writers On Cats (2006) edited by Peter Wells, is one indication of that. There is a kind of writing that features violence and such can certainly be great art. I think of Light in August (not that I figured it out by myself) as one example. Some of Sargeson's writing is in this category.

Our focus now though is the picture of his home as his friends related it.  We have this sketch from Frank Sargeson at 75 (1978):

[W]e set off at J.'s suggestion to see Frank Sargeson. ... I had a confused impression of books literally everywhere, of a Picassoesque cat crouched over the fireplace and of ....familiar spines ....

About that cat we learn more elsewhere. The cat on the mantel was a picture by Keith Patterson and given to Sargeson.

["Cat with Fern"].... deliberately reduces the cat to a series of patterned interlocking shapes which however do not depart radically from our idea of what a cat actually looks like in reality. ... Patterson's cat does nothing more than hint at the abstraction he was later wholly to embrace. The space behind the cat - it is actually a picture of a cat lying in the sun in front of a brick wall - is deliberately deprived of a sense of perspective, or spatial distance. The artist has been looking at the work of the Cubists, Braque, Picasso and Juan Gris. There's the typically New Zealand touch - the ferns, which again are highly patterned. Most of the surface has been painted with a brush but some of the thicker surfaces have been scratched with the tip of the brush handle to produce a variety of textures. Patterson gave this painting to Frank Sargeson who loved cats. He propped it up on his mantelpiece and never bothered to frame it. There it sat for the next forty years.

Which is the kind of setting one might expect from the writer who assured New Zealand literature a solid place in the library of the world.

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