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 firstname.lastname@example.org so that winners can be contacted.
Closing date is 27 June. We are sorry but our competitions are open only to UK readers.
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