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 31, 2016

March 31, 1936

Occasionally some silly expert points to the start of the cat craze in which we share. The last time I read about this the date was off by about 200 years. That is if you count Horace Walpole (1717 - 1797) whose enthusiasm prompted one of the great poems in English: 

But if we speak of our modern era, I would nominate for Saint of Cats, Marge Piercy (March 31, 1936). This child of a Depression era working class family in Detroit, was the first in her family to attend college. She has written 17 novels, some bestsellers, and poetry, and essays.

Poetry like this Garrison Keillor quoted (May 5, 2011):

The tao of touch

What magic does touch create
that we crave it so. That babies
do not thrive without it. That
the nurse who cuts tough nails
and sands calluses on the elderly
tells me sometimes men weep
as she rubs lotion on their feet.

Yet the touch of a stranger
the bumping or predatory thrust
in the subway is like a slap.
We long for the familiar, the open
palm of love, its tender fingers.
It is our hands that tamed cats
into pets, not our food.

The widow looks in the mirror
thinking, no one will ever touch
me again, never.

Her website includes interviews and there we found her summary of the significance of cats.

I get on very well with cats. They almost all recognize me. Nothing feels more pleasant to the fingers and palms than the fur of a healthy cat. I like their sensuality and their independence; I see myself mirrored in them. We have our anxieties and our moods and our fierce appetites and our razor sharp curiosity. Often both men and women, but especially men, project onto cats what under patriarchy they have learned to fear in women, which is why cats were burned when the witches were burned all over Europe in the millions. Women and cats were viewed as equally sexual and equally evil. What cannot be broken to obey must be destroyed, by that reasoning. Cats are seen as sneaky. They are considered without loyalty because they have a will and life of their own. But cats form intense passionate attachments and loyalties. I always knew with my old cat Arofa how long I could stay away from home – at what point she would simply refuse food and go on a hunger strike until I reappeared.

Why is sex so important in all your writing?

Well, in some sense that seems to me like the question about why I like cats. Though I suppose that relation might be clear only in my mind. 

I like that her husband's website has this picture:

They live in Wellfleet.

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