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.

August 5, 2017

August 5, 1889

When Conrad Aiken (August 5, 1889 to August 17, 1973) was a youth, he rescued a cat trapped on top of a telegraph pole. The story is preserved in the letters of his good friend Malcolm Lowry (Sursum corda!: the collected letters of Malcolm Lowry, 1996):

"Aiken a lad when he did this, and succeeded against the odds of everybody falling on the way down since you cannot hold on to the pole with both hands because now the cat wants to go back up the pole."

Conrad Aiken, throughout his dramatic life, remained a cat lover. Here is Garrison Keillor's biographical sketch:

...Conrad Aiken
...[was], born in Savannah, Georgia ... His parents were wealthy New Englanders who had moved south for his father's medical practice. When he was 12, with no warning or explanation, his father became increasingly emotionally unstable and violent. He woke one morning to the sound of gunshots and discovered the bodies of his parents — his father had shot his mother before turning the gun on himself. Aiken went to live with an aunt in Massachusetts where he attended private New England schools before entering Harvard. He started writing a poem a day, always changing the form, paying little attention to the content. He met T.S. Eliot through the literary magazine and the two developed a lifelong friendship, bonding over literature, drinking, and Krazy Kat comics. In 1952, Aiken published his autobiography Ushant, all about the trauma of his childhood, and his own attempt at suicide, his affairs, and many literary friendships. Towards the end of his life, he returned to his hometown Savannah to live until his death in 1973....

In The Writer as Shaman, (1986) Ted Spivey points to Aiken's "belief in an underlying unity that connects the arts and sciences."  Aiken described those who shared his vision "divine pilgrim[s]". In Ushant Aiken refers to the "final brilliance of consciousness...the world itself coming to self-knowledge." And the experiences, that are "both controlled and uncontrolled, and...the true artesian water of life, moments of abundance and joy, and the memory of power."  

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