Masson, author of popular nonfiction that explores the emotional lives of animals, mixes ancient Sanskrit parables and sloppy psychology into an arch little fable that . . . explores the emotional lives of animals.
Gather round, uncritical fans, and listen to the tale of Billi, an Asian leopard cat living thousands of years ago in India. He likes to hang out in his favorite mango tree and think deep thoughts. Why are two-legs (humans) always rushing around? That little peasant girl staggering under a backbreaking load of firewood looks as if she could use a friend. Maybe he should get to know her. But what’s in it for Billi? Life seems so, like, meaningless. Time to get out of his mango tree and check out the wisdom of assorted Sanskrit philosophers. (These distracting excerpts are presented with academic exactitude, complete with fussy footnotes.) Billi speaks in the voice of a college sophomore majoring in Comparative Religion, with just a soupçon of surfer-dude casualness. Hey, how about that quote from the Dasabhumikastura! Is that Buddhist monk Kshemendra cool or what? Back to the philosophical road trip: a pissed-off cow makes it clear that being a living divinity is no big whoop. A brave, cobra-killing mongoose is beaten to death by a stupid human. A pet dog complains that his collective memory of wolfhood has been compromised by domestication. Then Billi meets this really hot cat, Moria. Hey, she wants to have his kittens—but is he ready to commit?
Awful. Just awful.