Monday, 16 November 2009

I Am a Cat Vol.1





























I am a Cat. As yet I have no name.

I Am a Cat by
Sōseki Natsume began as a short story, which makes up chapter one of Volume one, but due to its success was extended into a three-volume book that is now a Japanese classic. Highly readable, I Am a Cat is narrated by a nameless stray who observes human nature. Amusing and delightfully originally, the satire and allegory are presently beyond me after only reading Volume one but I am looking forward to delving in deeper and learning more about the history, culture and society of the Meiji era (the installments of I Am a Cat first appeared between 1905 and 1906).

I Am a Cat is a scathing, observed piece that is very much a comedy of manners and intellect. The narrator -let's call him Neko- ingratiates himself into the household of an English teacher and his family with many scholarly friends of the schoolteacher visiting regularly and telling tall tales that the cat recounts. The device of cat as narrator is used cleverly as he is omniscient in his pride of listening place in a lap, privy to household conversations, and also, as a cat, can sneak undetected into other houses to eavesdrop on his light paw-steps.

Of course I am a cat-lover and I love to read about cats. Truth be told, I am a little cat obsessed and I highly enjoy the cat's meanderings and antics. I thought that this book would be the perfect companion read to I Am a Cat and I am coveting it accordingly.

I am enjoying the accessible, gentle and witty style of I Am a Cat and look forward to the subsequent volumes. Discussion of the first volume can be read at the dedicated read-along page at In Spring it is the Dawn.

A particularly favourite quote from this volume:

"He has no secret vices, but he is totally abandoned in the way he buys book after book, never to read a single one. I wouldn't mind if he used his head and bought in moderation, but no. Whenever the mood takes him, he ambles off to the biggest bookshop in the city and brings back home as many books as chance to catch his fancy. Then, at the end of the month, he adopts an attitude of complete detachment. At the end of last year, for instance, I had a terrible time coping with the bill that had been accumulating month after month."


24 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I feel I am missing out by not joining in on this one, but I just couldn't squeeze it in this month. Do you think it will appeal as much to people who aren't big cat fans? Is it quite easy to read?

verity said...

I like the sound of using the cat as a narrator - that is a novel approach and seems like that works well. Not sure if this is one for me as not a cat lover...

coops said...

You've whetted my appetite Claire! I'm looking forward to reading this and have a library reservation out for it.

As a cat lover you may enjoy I & Claudius by Clare de Vries; it's both a travelogue and a love letter to her beloved, aged Burmese.

Paperback Reader said...

Jackie, it's impossible to do them all! It was a must for me as I've had the book and been wanting to read the book for sometime.
I kept in mind during reading the first volume how non-cat-lovers would react to it and I must admit that most of the joy is taken from my observations about the cat and his traits. It is very accessible and easier to read than I thought; with its observations of the foibles of humans, I am reminded of Jane Austen. I think it may be too gentle for you especially as there is NO plot.

Verity, it was undoubtedly one of the first uses of cat/animal as narrator and I so so enjoy a story narrated by an animal. Le Chat by Colette is very funny but it is about a cat and not narrated by one. As I have said to Jackie, I do think that loving cats adds to the enjoyment of I Am a Cat.

coops, I hope you enjoy it; I imagine that as a fellow cat-lover you will. Thank you so much for the recommendation - I've added it directly to my wishlist!

gnoegnoe said...

How funny indeed that we both chose to call the cat Neko! It wasn't that I couldn't live with the cat having no name (the name part is very well explained ;) but I got tired of using the word 'cat' in my post ;)

Thanks for the tip about the Burroughs book; that might make a nice present for Mr Gnoe :) There are several Dutch authors that have written about their cats as well (WF Hermans & Remco Campert for example).

gnoegnoe said...

Oh, I forgot to say that I planned to post a picture with the cat bookmark I use as well! I just decided to keep it for future post with all those cat pictures I already threw in ;)

I like your bookmark :))

Vivienne said...

This sounds adorable. I love cats too. Though I can only have one as I have really bad asthma.

JoAnn said...

Even though I'm more of a dog person, the passage you quote is very intriguing...and I love your bookmark!

savidgereads said...

This does sound wonderful and whilst I am not joining in with the read-athon if it keeps on going so delightfully I may have to add it to my Christmas list!

Steph said...

I haven't read this one, so I can't comment on it specifically, but I read my first Japanese author earlier this year (Yukio Mishima) and was shocked at how accessible and organic I found his writing. For some reason I thought Japanese writing would be filled with analogies and ideas that wouldn't quite gel with a Western reader, but I didn't find that at all. I'd definitely like to read more Japanese literature in the future, so I might have to keep this one in mind - it sounds like fun!

Geraldine said...

I'm a cat person, so this sounded really intriguing. It's been added to my library reservations. Thanks Claire.

tanabata said...

I'm really enjoying the cat as narrator too, in addition to his antics and cat-isms.

As for naming the cat... many years ago, when I still lived in Canada I had a cat that I named Neko. I thought I was so clever at the time. :)

I can see my copy of I & Claudius from where I sit. I haven't read it yet but I'm glad to hear that coops recommends it.

I made a note of that quote too. I think a lot of us can relate to buying more book than we probably should.

farmlanebooks said...

It sounds as though I might have been right to skip this one then! I'll find another book with a strong plot to read instead!

Novel Insights said...

I would love to read this. It has been on my radar since you first mentioned it but am waiting until I see it at a bargain price!

claire said...

I feel a little frustrated that I wasn't able to join in. Really wanted to but I'm swamped with trying to finish my earlier commitments (challenges and other readalongs). I'm still following your posts though, and hopefully get to it next year. Glad to see you liked it. But then, it's inevitable as you adore cats!

Paperback Reader said...

gnoegnoe, writing cat so often was becoming confusing! I don't mind him being nameless but it is also nice to have some pet-name to apply to him.

Thank you for the Dutch author recommendations!

There can never be too many cat photographs or bookmarks!

Vivienne, at least your asthma allows you one; it would be sad to have no cats at all. My cat Mandoo is at home with my parents and I miss him dearly but we will be getting our own cat soon.

JoAnn, I can't resist a quote about buying too many books! Nymeth made me the bookmark :).

Simon, it is delightful! I love cats and I love Japanese Literature so it's the perfect combination.

Steph, I love Japanese literature and from what I have read so far it is very accessible. I have a few more Japanese texts coming up over the next couple of months so hopefully that will add to your list of Japanese authors to try.

You're welcome, Geraldine; I hope you enjoy it (and lucky you with a library that stocks it).

Nat, I love the cat-isms! I sit and nod my head whilst reading recognising the feline traits.

You were clever to use the name! It's a lovely cat name and one I will keep in mind; I also like Bastet after the Egyptian cat goddess.

I think we can all relate to that book-buying quote! Perhaps not the bill though...

Jackie, although I am enjoying the book, I think it's definitely not for you.

Polly, maybe Santa could bring it?! I hope you obtain a copy somehow as it is very good so far.

Claire, it is indeed inevitable! I appreciate the frustration - there are simply too many books, challenges and read-alongs! I am sure you will reach this in your own good time to enjoy it.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I read the first part of this last year and absolutely loved it. I really enjoyed seeing the story through the cat's eyes, but also how it mostly centers around the human characters. I definitely need to start reading the next volume!

Book pusher said...

This sounds like a great book and I was surprised by the Burroughs book, not the kind of thing I expect to see from Burroughs, both books are now on my wish list.

Karen said...

I have my copy of this ready and waiting but I just haven't had a chance to start it yet! I adore cats too - my own cat's antics can keep my amused all day - so I am really looking forward to reading this one.

Paperback Reader said...

Hi Kay, thanks for commenting. I am going to start the next volume soon as the discussion of that is taking place on December 15th. I'm looking forward to it. Perhaps you could read it and join in?

Book Pusher, good additions! The Burroughs book is at the top of mine; I was surprised to discover it but as soon as I read the title and then synopsis, I knew it was a book that I had to read.

Karen, I hope you enjoy it when you find the time to read it. There is definitely more to appreciate when you have a cat in your life and can recognise the cat-isms.

coops said...

Hurrah, I collected my library copy yesterday. Completely hideous 1970s sci-fi looking cover though; I would never have picked it off a shelf!

Paperback Reader said...

That was quick, coops! I'm intrigued by the cover. I must start reading Volume 2.

coops said...

So far I've found it to be a gentle book, ideal for a few pages at bedtime. I prefer the parts where "Neko" is monologuing, as the human characters are faintly annoying!

You can see the cover here

Paperback Reader said...

coops, it is gentle and I read most of it in bed too. I find the humans annoying too (is that intentional as they are seen through the eyes of a cat?)

That cover is so different! It is doubtful that one would have caught my eye like this one.