Cats is one of the first few books Penguin Books have published as a part of their new Letters of Note literary collection. I like the concept of this series. Shaun Usher has selected some fascinating letters and compiled them under different themes, which is special, considering snail mail letters have become a thing of the past. I honestly don’t think I valued personalized letters until I read Cats – when amusing things happen to me, I share them with my family and friends over a phone call, and then those stories suffer “a quick death” as Shaun puts it, as they are rarely retold! But I digress.
Most of the letters included in this collection are written by famous people, and their correspondence invoked varying degrees of emotions in me. I lived through the pain of several writers losing their beloved feline companions (Most heartbreaking letter out of this lot was written by marine biologist/ author Rachel Carson. At the time her cat died, Rachel was in a losing battle with breast cancer.). Sometimes I laughed at the antics of a few fur balls (Author John Cheever’s cat once defecated into his Keelex box while he was down with a cold!!!). And at other times, I nodded my head in agreement (Adlai Stevenson, former Governor of Illinois, penned a scathing letter to the state senate defending cats when they sought to “control feline delinquency.”) Among the twenty-seven letters in Cats, there are two letters I particularly enjoyed as I felt they offered me a glimpse into their writers’ playful souls. Author Raymond Chandler’s letter is an ode to his cat, whom he calls his secretary, because she has always been his faithful writing companion, loving him and bossing him around. Then there is architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s ridiculously funny response to his four-year-old son who wants Frederick to send their family dog to him. You can read that letter here (page 15), and it’s quite precious!
Note: Many thanks to Penguin Books for sending me a review copy of Letters of Note: Cats.