Short Story Of The Month: Cat in the Rain

Welcome to the eighth short story of the month!

Books, cats, rain, and a steaming hot cup of tea are a few of my favourite things.

Come July, it is also Ernest Hemingway’s birthday. It falls on 21st July and one of his short stories beautifully combines two of my favourite things: rain and cats.

Cat in the Rain is a perfect, short read for a rainy day.

What is the story about?

Oh where do I even begin summarising this story? Hemingway’s use of the iceberg theory is well known and perhaps the most widely taught writing theory in creative writing classes.  So, it is hard to summarise or pin point what any of Hemingway’s story is about since there can be infinite interpretations.  Layers and layers are stitched together in all his stories’ clipped and succinct sentences.

But essentially the story is about an American couple staying in a hotel somewhere in Italy. One day, it begins to rain and the wife, who is simply known as ‘American wife’ spots a cat trying to hide from the rain under a green table.

The woman is then seized with a sudden need to save the cat and also own one. She expresses her desire to get a kitty so that she can have one sitting on her lap purring while she strokes its fur.
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The Reading Spree: Poetry

May has come in slowly and steadily and brought in its wake extended lock down of two more weeks.

I hope May is not as slow as April. Why must time be relative? Why does it feel so?

April is celebrated as the National Poetry Month by Academy of of American Poets to celebrate American poets.

So I decided to read only poetry this month.

Poems have a lovely, magical quality to them of saying so much, in so less. They convey emotions in so many myriad ways that it is breathtaking!

These are the collection of poems I had at home and I decided to read them in the month of April.

Along with poems I also reread Camus’ The Plague and boy oh boy it was an intense experience and reading it felt like I was looking at a mirror at our own world today that has been hit by the corona virus pandemic.

Read my thoughts about The Plague and the book’s similarity with today’s world on The Curious Reader. 

But apart from this novel, all my reading was poems. These are the five poetry collections I read this month:

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Top 5: Catty Catty Bang Bang: Part 2!

It is February 22nd! Anddd today is National Cat Day in Japan.

Thus, we at The Book Cafe want to celebrate it by presenting the Top 5 books from Japanese Literature that feature none other than our favourite feline creatures, CATS!

Japan loves its cats. They feature in legends and folklore. There are even shrines dedicated to them such as Nekonomiya (Shrine of the Cat) in Yamagata Prefecture or the Nekojinja (Cat Shrine) on the island of Tashirojima in the Miyagi Prefecture. And of course the ubiquitous maneki neko (the beckoning cat) beckons through most shops and restaurants.

Unsurprisingly, Japanese literature also boasts of several books that centre on cats or have cats as prominent characters.

Let’s take a look at the Top 5 Japanese novels that are about cats:

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The Artist of Disappearance

The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai thrives on the motif of disappearance. The epigraph (by Jorge Luis Borges) of the book,

“One thing alone does not exist – oblivion,”

similarly brings in an oft debated idea of what stays on eternally and what disappears from this world. I would think, contrary to what Borge points out, oblivion is the ONE thing that is absolutely constant. A person cannot protect or fight against oblivion. It is inevitable.

Yet the three short stories of The Artist of Disappearance, question whether oblivion is in fact inevitable and if it is possible to fight it.

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The first story, The Museum of Final Journeys, is about a Civil Servant Officer, who recently finished his training and is now traveling to a remote place: his first posting. Soon the banality of his office and work overtakes his life and is only broken when an old faithful caretaker of the erstwhile Mukherjee estate nearby requests the officer to take over a now crumbling museum that is replete with bric-a-brac collected from all over the world. The caretaker even takes the officer to the equally dilapidated estate and shows him the various rooms filled with these curious objects – carpets and rugs from across the world, stuffed birds and animals, miniature paintings from bygone Indian empires, fans and kimonos, myriad masks, weapons of war and much more.

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Quick Reviews: Gigi and the Cat

Gigi and The Cat by the acclaimed French writer, Colette, are two novellas published together by Vintage and I read them as part of Women in Translation Month.

Don’t know what that is?

Find out here!

What is this book about?

Gigi and The Cat consists of two stories: one is titled Gigi and the other, The Cat. Translated from French, both the stories adeptly capture the vivacity of the fin de siecle in Paris.

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Gigi is about the eponymous protagonist, ebullient girl of 15, dictated by her grandmamma who lavishly rains on her several rules of how to behave like a woman. Both her grandmamma and mother think that she is a simple, childish, naive girl who is unable to understand the intricacies of class and its politics. However, when an admirable suitor, Gaston Lachaille, confesses his love to her, Gigi or Gilberte, employs her own tactic of figuring out how to handle the situation, breaking away from her grandmother and mother’s advice.

La Chatte or in English, The Cat, is a much more complex story narrated in rich, detailed prose. The Cat outlines the love of the protagonist, Alain, towards his beautiful cat, Saha. The story then unravels how his marriage to Camille Malmert affects Saha and Alain’s relation with Saha. The story takes a plunge into Alain’s thoughts and emotions toward Saha, Camille, and his life in general, especially his deep love for the house he grew up in. Alain’s love for Saha is clear in the way he fondly calls out her name (with an aspirated ‘h’) and behaves with her ever so lovingly. His instinct toward Saha and his ability to know her inside out irks Camille to a certain extent, though she does try to come to terms with the cat.

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Coraline

Coraline is the first book I read by Neil Gaiman. I have heard a lot about him and his books but never got round to reading anything by him. But I happened to read somewhere that his story, Coraline, features a cat and I lapped up on the opportunity to read it since I had seen the copy in the college library.

Coraline begins with the eponymous protagonist having moved into an old house along with her parents. The house also has a few strange neighbours who have equally strange names: Miss Spink and Miss Forcible being two examples. Another is an old man who is currently training rats to perform their own circus!

Despite such peculiar neighbours, Coraline feels easily bored with her surroundings and being summer vacation, she does not have much to do except chatting with her parents (who are busy with their own jobs) or neighbours or exploring the old house which is quite huge and even has an overgrown garden. But this alone does not quench her boredom.

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Ito Junji’s Cat Diary: Yon and Mu!

Ito Junji’s horror mangas are well renowned but this famous Cat Diary takes a step away from the usual gory affairs and gives an autobiographical look at how Junji warmed up to two pet cats his fiance got into their lives.

Cat Diary starts with the author moving into a new house in Gifu with his fiance.

And that turns his world upside because his cat loving fiance brings her parents’ cat, Yon, from their house in Chiba.

Yon is a scary cat nicknamed, “the cat with an accursed face”, since it has an eerie print of a skull on its back.

Horror may be his forte, but the accursed face scares the living daylights out of Junji Ito in Cat Diary!

Quite ironical, yeah?

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Kafka on the Shore

I am sure many hardcore Murakami fans will swear by the magic realism and surreal feel of his novel, Kafka on the Shore.

And it sure has a touch of the bizarre and the other worldly.

Kafka on the Shore starts with a 15 year old boy deciding to runaway from his father to live on his own under the pseudonym, Kafka Tamura. The novel than traces his journey where he meets other characters such as Sakura who is a hair dresser and who he thinks might be his sister. Then he stumbles on a job in the library that he had visited and finds a home there. At the library, he meets Oshima, who is the assistant, and the owner, Miss Saeki, who has her own melancholic back story.

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Parallelly, the novel touches upon a curious incident that happened in the Yamanashi Prefecture where a group of children suddenly became unconsciously. It then focuses on one of those students, Mr. Nakata, who after the accident lost the ability to read and write but could mysteriously talk to cats. Consequently, he was the cat finder of his area in Nakano where he stayed.

Talking to cats is just one in the series of bizarre things to pop up in the novel.

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Catty Catty Bang Bang: Part 1

Does your heart melt when a kitten mewls at you?

Or when a cat follows you around and rubs your ankles?

Are a kitten’s paws your greatest delight?

If yes is the answer to all the above, then you are a certified cat lover!

For all fellow cat lovers, here are six great books to pick up that revolve around your favourite creature!

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The Guest Cat

Fed up of dog related books? Are you a cat lover who is not appreciated because the world is gaga over dogs and their loyalty whereas cats are consigned to a manipulative caricature?

Well I am!!

I am a default cat lover since the time we got a pet cat quite out of pity. From then on, I have loved my own cat and cats in general to death. So when I came across the novel, The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hiraide on Amazon at a decent rate, I instantly bought it since it fed my two interests: cats and my nascent interest in Japanese literature.

Translated into English by Eric Selland, the story is a simple one about a couple who sort of adopt a cat but do not own her. It traces their relation with the cat while also commenting on other aspects of Japan.

Chibi, the cat, comes into their lives unexpectedly when they move into a small guestroom next to a bungalow in Tokyo in 1988. Chibi has her own quirky characteristics that the narrator describes at length. Chibi comes and goes freely into their modest abode, sets up a routine of staying in their house at night and leaving in the mornings to accompany her actual owners’ son to say goodbye.

Against this backdrop, the couple themselves go through their own daily lives and jobs. The woman works at a publishing house and the man quits his job at a publishing agency to write his own stories.

What stands out however is how the main focus is the cat’s quiet relationship with the couple and the house they live in. The descriptions of both Chibi and their house is poetic and academic perhaps keeping in mind the profession of the narrator.

Through these descriptions the narrator also conveys information and comments on the goings on in Japan and Tokyo, most prominently the real estate and the Emperor’s sickness and subsequent death. It is accompanied by a glossary at the end which gives good information on the Japanese references in the novel.

Another, truly unique aspect that stands out are the comparisons and references between the different emotions and moods of the narrator whether it is comparing a house hunt with Machiavelli or triangular surveying to measure distance to avoid grief!

All in all, the novel, The Guest Cat shines because of its talent to convey profound musings through the everyday. And whether you are a cat lover or not, this is a must read since the style and the writing is unique, sparse and down to earth.

Here is a link of the book on Amazon: