Is this cat Charles Bukowski is holding the “white cross-eyed tailless” tom he memorialized in “The History Of One Tough Motherfucker”?
....I took what was left to a vet who said, "not much
chance... give him these pills... his backbone
is crushed, but it was crushed before and somehow
mended, if he lives he'll never walk, look at
these x-rays, he's been shot, look here, the pellets
are still there... also, he once had a tail, somebody
cut it off..."
I took the cat back, it was a hot summer, one of the
hottest in decades, I put him on the bathroom
floor, gave him water and pills, he wouldn't eat, he
wouldn't touch the water, I dipped my finger into it
and wet his mouth and I talked to him, I didn't go any-
where, I put in a lot of bathroom time and talked to
him and gently touched him and he looked back at
me with those pale blue crossed eyes and as the days went
by he made his first move
dragging himself forward by his front legs
(the rear ones wouldn't work)
he made it to the litter box
crawled over and in,
it was like the trumpet of possible victory
blowing in that bathroom and into the city, I
related to that cat-I'd had it bad, not that
bad but bad enough
one morning he got up, stood up, fell back down and
just looked at me.
"you can make it," I said to him.
he kept trying, getting up falling down, finally
he walked a few steps, he was like a drunk, the
rear legs just didn't want to do it and he fell again, rested,
then got up....
Obviously I was going to get around to this shot of Mark Twain with his kitten and cigar sooner or later. “If man could be crossed with the cat,” he once said, “it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.”
I’m embarrassed about the outpouring of cat photos, but I’ve been feeling kind of up-and-down lately — mostly down, to be honest. Writing the end of this godforsaken novel is so depressing, like I’m dredging up the worst, saddest feelings I’ve ever had about anything and putting them all in a pot and stirring them up until they fizz and smoke and mutate into even more horrible feelings I’ve never actually been aware existed but am now having to sit with. And while all this is happening, I’m trying to bear in mind Toni Morrison’s credo: “if it’s not your brain thinking cold, cold thoughts, which you can dress in any kind of mood, then it’s nothing.”
I love this David Levine illustration of Muriel Spark holding a wicked black cat. It really evokes the wit and brutal perception that made some of her detractors so anxious. Spark really was a little witchy, in the best way. Her “perfect” cat — and only trusted critic — was a Persian, “a gifted clairvoyante [who] would sit on my notebooks if what I had written was all right.”
From her 18th(!) novel, A Far Cry from Kensington:
[I]f you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work, I explained, the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk-lamp. The light from a lamp, I explained, gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquillity of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.
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I’m the kind of person who cries over Who Do You Think You Are episodes.
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