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CATS 15 Complete Stories and Poems

by | Read by Liza Goddard, Richard Griffiths

Fiction • 3 hrs. • Unabridged • ©

"Cats are not dogs," begins P.G. Wodehouse's "The Story of Webster," the droll tale of an ecclesiastical cat who bullies a feckless young artist into a life of probity.Unlike dog and horse stories, classic cat tales do not highlight human virtues such as loyalty, courage, endurance. Oh, no. Cats in literature, as in life, demonstrate elegance and grace, sagacity, languor, and a certain disdain for human prerogatives. Like the Cat Van Gogh that graces the cover of this collection, and our own midsummer issue, the cat tale features, in the words of Christopher Smart, "a mixture of gravity and waggery." Keats appears here, with the little-known "On Mrs. Reynolds' Cat," but this is one venue where he must cede his place to Lear and Carroll. And none can surpass Thurber, represented by three selections: the long, meandering story "The Siamese Cats" and two fables, one of which aptly concludes, "Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud, in this little voyage from swaddle to shroud?" Hardly a message to be carried in the jaws of Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin. The highlight of this collection is that greatest of all cat stories, Saki's "Tobermory," in which the guest at an English country weekend teaches the household cat to talk--with dire consequences for everyone involved. Other celebrities include Carroll's Cheshire Cat, Lear's "Owl and the Pussycat," and Twain's "Dick Baker's Cat." And, of course, there's Poe's "The Black Cat," without which no collection of cat tales would be complete. As does Poe's story, Patricia Highsmith's suspense story "Ming's Biggest Prey" employs a cat as an agent of justice. However, what counts most in these tales isn't effective storytelling so much as the subtle and sardonic elaborations of wit and style that are the human equivalents of the cat temperament. Wonderfully read by Goddard and Griffiths in a range of accents, this anthology is one of the summer's delights. D.A.W. © AudioFile, Portland, Maine [Published: AUG/SEP 99]

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