Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Five and a Half Inches - Michelle Lovric

Some measure their lives in teaspoons, but I measure mine in cat litter.

My cats perform their piccoli bisogni in an air-conditioned stainless steel chamber accessed via a Venetian arch copied from John Ruskin’s Stones of Venice. For the sake of their dignity, I shall refrain from illustrating this paragraph.

Every Wednesday and every Saturday I empty the cats’ litter tray. This is one task it’s better not to execute mindfully. So I use the time to consider what I have achieved literarily and personally between Wednesday and Saturday or between Saturday and Wednesday.

For a long time I marked off the grim stages of a personal matter now elegantly and happily resolved, then a broken foot treated, a children’s book written, series of workshops completed, a second broken foot treated (yes, I know), another draft written.

This Wednesday I something else to think about. There’s nothing quite like the relaunch of a backlist to make a writer feel quite chuffed at having achieved five and half inches of printed, published word.



This week, my backlist was relaunched by Bloomsbury with new covers.

Given my habit of measuring my life in cat litter, it seems appropriate to use my cats to measure the achievement. There are cats all through my books.

Carnevale, which is the story of the portrait painter Cecilia Cornaro, features a talking cat who provides commentary on the artist’s lovers, who include Casanova and Byron.


In The Floating Book, the story of Venice’s nascent publishing industry, the publisher’s wife Lussieta follows Italian tradition by acquiring a tabby cat when she becomes pregnant. Tabby cats have the ‘M’ of the Madonna on their stripy foreheads, and it is said that a cat birthed her kittens under the manger where Jesus was born, providing a lesson in perfect maternity for a Virgin inexperienced in childcare. The Floating Book’ s cat is not as virtuous as it might be, however. It is a incorrigible thief.


In The Remedy, a medical murder mystery set in Venice and seedy Bankside, I was constrained to a couple of mummified cats as my wonderful literary agent, Victoria Hobbs, was at that time wont to decry the number of cats in my books and asked me to desist. But she is now the owner of two cats. Just saying. Don’t need to gloat or anything.


The Book of Human Skin is still in print with its original cover. In it, there are several cats including a kitten who suffers a sad fate, illustrating how sociopathic individuals often display their dangerous lack of empathy at a very young age by cruelty to helpless animals.

In The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, a cat teaches Ida, the youngest and perhaps the maddest of the siblings, not to eat her hair, by offering the example of furballs. Enough to make a cat laugh?



As is traditional with a publication, or a relaunch, this blog now offers a complete set of the relaunched titles – all five and a half inches of printed text – as a prize for the answer to this question:

"What is your favourite feline character in literature and why?"

Put your answers in the Comments section below and copy them to readers@maryhoffman.co.uk so that winners can be contacted.

Closing date is 27 June. We are sorry but our competitions are open only to UK readers.



Michelle Lovric's website


17 comments:

Spade and Dagger said...

Gobbolino the Witch's Cat (Ursula Moray Williams) is a charming and memorable story of a magical cat who has many adventures and refuses to do harm as 'the Witch's cat'. As a child, the story was very appealing as it is about a spell-casting, travelling cat that makes decisions about what it wants to do in life - cats are very independent in nature - and then acts to make it happen. It was probably the first early reading book that showed me an animal character with a determination of its own. As an adult, reading the book to young ones, the appeal of Gobbolino was still there for all ages.

Clare Mulley said...

Alice's Cheshire cat is very appealing, the Cat in the Hat introduced me to anarchy early on, and I rather like the family of cats in the HG's Zizou Corder's Lion Boy... never very fond of Aslan though. Congratulations on the re-release of so many inches of words - new covers are lovely!

Lydia Syson said...

So hard to choose… as I age, my sympathies veer towards Tabitha Twitchit. Carbonel is an old favourite too, and since I had childhood cats unoriginally named after both of these they are probably my favourites. But then Macavity the Mystery Cat has such a brilliant, sprightly rhythm to him, and after all, 'There's no-one like Macavity'.

Congratulations on a beautiful set of covers, set off so perfectly by such elegant felines!

Susan Price said...

Puss in Boots - who's like him? First he swaggers through his fairy-tale - then he stars in an Angela Carter story, still charming and swashbuckling - and now he's taken on a purring Spanish accent as he swaggers and swashbuckles through a film.

Mary Hoffman said...

I know this cat personally and her equally beautiful but aloof from books companion, though I have no close acquaintance with their litter, except when catsitting.

And I have read many of those inches. Congratulations on the re-issues, Michelle; may they introduce many more readers to your versions of Venice!

Joan Lennon said...

Christopher Smart's "For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry -"
I loved that about the M on tabbies' foreheads and the Madonna - marvelous!
Lovely photos, and many congratulations on the re-issuing!

Joan Lennon said...

Sorry - I forgot to say why. Because they had such a complete writer-cat relationship, even in a madhouse.

Sue Purkiss said...

Congratulations on the reissues!

Caroline Lawrence said...

The covers look FAB! Don't enter me the comp (it wouldn't be fair!) but I want to say that my favourite Cat is Robert Westall's BlitzCat who temporarily loses his hearing in the blitz and is therefore not bothered by the air pressure handicap of going up in a bomber plane!

Katherine Langrish said...

My favourite cat has to be Tomlyn from Nicholas Stuart Gray's retelling of the Rapunzel story: 'The Stone Cage'

Mary Hoffman said...

My favourite (not in the competition) is Diana Wynne Jones's Throgmorten, who says "Wong!"

carol drinkwater said...

Gorgeous covers. I hope they sell in shedloads. Cx

Linda said...

I agree: they are gorgeous covers.
I confess I have a secret soft spot for Macavity. We all had to learn the poem at school and perform it for our long-suffering parents, but none of us girls minded: he's such a sneaky, clever villain, licking his thumbs while the baffled authorities try to break his alibis, and we would have loved a fraction of his skill at getting out of trouble. Plus, the poem is wonderful to recite: I remember we would go around the playground shouting 'The Napoleon of crime' and 'For he's a fiend in feline shape' to annoy the dinner ladies. Simpler times . . .

adele said...

Many many congratulations,dear Michelle and a suitable crowning for your brave victory over recent events! Lovely reissues! You must feel vindicated and happy and not before time . My favourite fictional cat is my own Ozymandias, aka Ozzy from the Fantoras books. I don't feel inthe least guilty about nominating him....if you asked me who my favourite children were, I'd name my own there too!:))

Leslie Wilson said...

Yo, I have never read The Remedy! A treat in store.
One cat I like is Greebo, Nanny Oggs cat in Terry Pratchett's Lancre...

Elspeth Scott said...

The reissues look wonderful. Lots of brilliant cats already nominated, but one not mentioned yet fro whom I have great affection, is Paul Gallico's eponymous "Jennie". I have seen her maxim "when in doubt, wash!" displayed by my own cats many times over the years.

Hana Khan said...

The Cowardly Lion is definitely a favourite. I love that it’s his loyalty to his friends that helps him overcome his fears and get what he has always wanted, and I think the forest animals finally being able to see him for who he is and accepting him as their leader is an important message for children.