A curious collection of writings about cats, as the self-acknowledged Dirty Old Man of American letters celebrates his feline affinities and affection.
Not nearly as substantial, provocative, or even interesting as this year’s other posthumous Bukowski collection, On Writing, this slim volume features poems and prose pieces—mainly distinguished by the length and formatting—that focus on, feature, or merely mention cats. “I / dislike cute cat / poems / but I’ve written one / anyhow,” writes the author in “My Cat, the Writer.” Though Bukowski didn’t care much for most of humanity, he did like cats a lot. Why? Because as the title of one poem puts it, “A Cat Is a Cat Is a Cat Is a Cat.” The autobiographical pieces reveal that he shared his home with as many as a half-dozen cats at a time and that these cats would bite him, sleep with him (and wake him early), urinate on him, and fight with other cats. Mainly, they were indifferent to him, even his flatulence, and he greatly admired their lack of neediness and their self-possession. “If you’re feeling bad,” he writes, “you just look at the cats, you’ll feel better, because they know that everything is, just as it is. There’s nothing to get excited about. They just know. They’re saviors. The more cats you have, the longer you live.” Bukowski called them his teachers, and he clearly identified with them, especially the bedraggled and stray ones. Of a cat at the vet, somehow walking again after being run over by a car, he writes, “this cat is me. He came to the door starving to death. He knew right where to come. We’re both bums off the street.”
Cat lovers won’t confuse the author’s verse with T.S. Eliot’s, and Bukowski fans will find this of marginal significance.