Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Fur Person ~ by May Sarton

Title, author, date of book, and genre?
The Fur Person ~ by May Sarton, 1957, a fictional memoir (of sorts)

What made you want to read this book?
I read it for two challenges (Outmoded authors and Four-legged friends).

Summarize the book
The Fur Person is May Sarton's fictionalized account of her cat Tom Jones's life and adventures prior to making the author's acquaintance. Tom starts out as a fiercely independent, nameless street cat who follows the ten commandments of a Gentleman Cat, one of which states that "A Gentleman Cat allows no constraint of his person, not even loving constraint." But after several years of wandering from place to place, he grows tired of his vagabond lifestyle and concludes that there might be some appeal after all in giving up the freedom of life on the streets in exchange for a loving home.

I called this a fictional memoir because this Cat about Town finds an acceptable home with two Voices; Sarton's preface tells us those voices are "Brusque Voice (myself) and Gentle Voice (Judy Matlack)." Tom Jones moves in with May and Judy and becomes a Gentleman Cat. After a trip to the hospital, the Gentleman Cat becomes a Gentle Cat and no longer wants to fight. In time Tom becomes a genuine Fur Person and adds this Eleventh Commandment: "A Gentleman Cat becomes a Fur Person when he is truly loved by a human being" (p. 117, LP).

What did you think of the main character?
I loved his attitude, exemplified in his poetry (pp. 82-83, LP):
I'm a whiffling wonder
And my purr's like thunder,
I'm an elegant fellow
And my temper's mellow
And my eyes as green
As have ever been seen;
I've a coat like silk,
Paws white as milk,
I'm a catly cat,
An aristocrat
If you wish to see
Tom Jones, I'm he.
This Jones victorious
Glossy and glorious
Lordly and lazy
And catnip crazy
Yes, glorious Jones
Is me!
How would you rate this book?
Rated: 8/10, a very good book.

Kailana's last rule for the Four-legged friends challenge is to tell something about our pets in our introductory post. I have had a number of pets ... turtles, puppies, fish, kitties, salamander, and a hamster named Herman, for example ... but the ones I have bonded with have mostly been cats. So in my introductory post I wrote about Duchess, the cat who waited to walk me home on school days. My Gentleman Cat, however, was named Jack.

Jack and Jill

When my twin daughters were five and my son was two, they found under the tree on Christmas twin kittens, one male and one female. I have never been able to tell one from the other until cats grow up, but we told our children which we THOUGHT was which. We were, of course, wrong. Before we learned we had mislabeled the kittens, the children had chosen names from among their favorite stories, and the furry babies became Jack and Jill. Or Jill and Jack. Within a few months one darted under the wheels of a car and "Jill" lived on ... until the day it was undeniably clear that "she" was Jack. I'm sure Jack was totally confused when he received his sister's name, after having been Jill up until then. But it was clear that he knew the word meant HIM ... whenever he heard "Jack," even in the middle of a sentence spoken between humans, he would twitch his ear in our direction even if we thought he was asleep across the room.

Jack was an outdoor cat who loved to chase squirrels. When he spied one in the dogwood tree, up he would go after the critter, who simply hopped to a branch of a nearby tree and chattered heatedly at Jack, who sat dejectedly in the dogwood tree like an oversized gray-and-white Persian blossom. Lest you believe Jack was not a hunter, however, let me assure you he brought in his share of "gifts" to the family. One Sunday morning I left my children at home getting ready for church (my mother lived downstairs) and dashed off to the office to make copies for a Monday morning business trip. When I got home, I saw my 10- or 11-year-old son coming across the back yard from the woods. He was dressed for church, crying, and dragging the double-bladed axe. My heart stopped! Until I heard the story. Jack had brought a twitching rabbit onto the patio, and my young son told me he knew if I'd been there, I would have put the dying animal out of its misery. "But Mom, I knew you'd kill he if I used the 22-rifle," he said. Darn tootin! Instead, my kind-hearted child used the axe ... almost, but not quite, as bad as the rifle. And he managed NOT to get blood on his Sunday suit. I was so proud of him for doing that, something that he knew was the right thing to do, even though his little heart was breaking when he did it. I never saw the rabbit because my little boy took care of the problem.

Jack the Gentleman Cat probably wondered about his humans ... didn't they recognize what a gift he had shared? Usually what Jack shared was laundry time. When I would come to the basement laundry room, Jack would follow me and sit on a window sill or the dryer to talk to me while I stuffed the washer with dirty clothes. Since he spent a lot of time roaming the neighborhood, he himself would sometimes be the one who came home bloodied and scarred. One evening about dusk I got a call from a neighbor, telling me my cat had knocked over a large $100 vase on her front porch. By the time my husband got on the phone with her, the vase was worth $200. I got the car keys to go find Jack, went to the basement garage, and found Jack sound asleep on top of the car ... and the garage door was firmly closed. Not. My. Cat! Oh, you can't imagine how happily I called the woman back to inform her the naughty cat was someone else's! Jack, my sleeping fur person, was totally exonerated!

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