27 September 2010

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

Originally published in October 2004, in 2 parts.
Book 33 in my first 52 books challenge.


Cover and illustrations by Edward Gorey
A lot of people are familiar with Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats only through the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats. Many probably don’t even know these delightful verses existed long before Cats was composed. Ironically enough, the most famous song from the musical is not in the book: “Memory” was apparently based on some notes Eliot had written for more cat verses that were never published.

As far as I know, these verses were originally written for the children of some friends of Eliot’s. They are often dismissed as being trivial and simplistic, especially in comparison with the sombre verses of The Wasteland.

To tell the truth, I have never much liked The Wasteland, even if I did manage to get an ‘excellent’ for my smarmy essay about it in a modern literature class I took when studying for my B.A. degree in English. I much preferred The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

But back to Old Possum and his Practical Cats. The poems are light, often insightful into natures both feline and human, and generally funny. They never fail to brighten up a dark day (and I did need brightening up today – my car tried to run away from home and I found it smooching with my neighbour’s car in the parking lot when I came home from work. I hope this is not going to be expensive).

Rating:
Delightful cat verses that will hopefully continue to make children and grown-ups smile for generations to come. 5 stars.

3 comments:

George said...

I always thought THE WASTELAND was overrated, too. However, I am a huge fan of Eliot's essays. The essays are dense and demand close reading, but they are full of wisdom.

Bibliophile said...

As it happens, I have a collection of prose works by Eliot. Maybe I should move it up on my TBR list.

George said...

You won't be sorry if you move Elliot's prose collection a little higher on your Read Real Soon list.