Library Cat by Alex Howard

Reviewed by Peter Hobson

library-catThis book recounts the puzzling behaviour and absurdities of the human world as narrated by the famous, and sadly now missing, Library Cat of Edinburgh University. Now this is difficult territory: anthropomorphic animals are a pitfall for writers, actors and animators alike. It is just so easy for humour to make friends with cute or mawkish or sentimental and I am pleased to say that Library Cat avoids this fate.

The book itself is a collection of short philosophical musings attributed to a real cat that until recently was well known to the inhabitants of the magnificent library by Basil Spence in George Square, Edinburgh (reader I remember it well). Each short piece ends with a helpful list of recommended reading plus cat-oriented aspects of life such as food, mood and our hero’s ‘Discovery about Humans’. The latter usually being at our expense (or often at a ‘typical’ student’s expense).

I must confess at this point that this is a difficult book to review, indeed one might not unreasonably feel what is the fuss about? The cat is (was) a celebrity and I am not surprised that Howard chose to write a book about (or by, depending on your belief system) him. I think what makes it interesting to read, as well as entertaining, is that the short narratives are generally well observed with a sharp eye for the absurd. The whole is suffused with humour and I think a genuine love for all whose tails are gently tweaked throughout. Perhaps a short quotation will bring out the flavour (probably tuna) better than I can. Library Cat has his paws on a petition …

DO YOU AGREE WITH THE CLOSURE OF THE LIBRARIES?
Having thoroughly considered the adverse effects that library closures would exact upon the serendipitous consumption of discarded bacon rind, I wholeheartedly condemn this move. It would be deleterious. The books? The strokes? The chairs … ARE YOU DAMN MAD?

Forename: Library
Surname: Cat
Occupation: Cat
Address: Library
Date of Birth: The early twenty-first century
Do you own your property? If I sit on it, then yes.
Ethnic background: Black & White / Thinking Cat
Orientation: Currently west-facing

Now if that raised both a chuckle and has you nodding at the ambiguity/absurdity of questionnaires then you will probably like (maybe even love) this short book. I did, mostly, though my fur was raised a little by the rather stereotypic French cousin Biblio Chat.

SNB logo tinyPeter Hobson is a particle physicist and Edinburgh University graduate who loves cats but has never lived with one though he has (and still does on occasion) spent much time in libraries. He posts from time to time on his weblog Morgana’s Cat, where occasionally other cats may be seen.

Alex Howard, Library Cat (Black and White Publishing, Ltd, 2016). 978-795300165, 183 pp., hardcover.

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