Dual Book Report: All I Need to Know I Learned From My Cat by Suzy Becker (1990) / 101 Uses For A Dead Cat by Simon Bond (1981)

Ladies and gentlemen, I guess I have become a cat person after all.

It didn’t start to be this way. In the old days, I was a normal guy, favoring dogs over cats as pets. Of course, for a very long time, we didn’t have pets except for Oscar, the snake my mother wussified by watching soap operas while petting it on her lap, and a stream of soon to be dead goldfish. But I related more to my aunt’s dogs than her cats in her menagerie. Then, when we ended up outside of an apartment in the projects (Berryland, in Milwaukee, thank you), we got a dog. And then a couple more.

At that time, I appreciated some anti-cat humor.

But then, I moved into my own apartment and got one of those maintenance-free pets (the cat), and she grew on me. Suddenly, we had many in our house by the time we had a house. And the transitory dog, but we got him from the recycling facility unhealthy, and he didn’t make it long.

So I seem to have run out of poetry books of short works to read at the boy, so I picked up All I Need To Know I Learned From My Cat since its little bon chats would be easy to put down and pick back up when the boy wandered into and out of the room (or vice versa; when chasing him, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going). Well, its simple prose took about 10 minutes to read, and then I was done. I own a cat, so I sympathize with the sentiments. Since I ran out of things to read aloud, I grabbed 101 Uses for a Dead Cat on the next pass of the to-read shelves.

I bought it at the St. Charles Book Fair this year towards the end of the trip, as I wearied from carrying my books and as the boy began to fuss. I grabbed it because I thought it was an early, cheap paperback edition. I later realized its actual paperback cover was missing. How disappointing.

I remember the hubbub in the early 1980s about this book. Animal lovers’ organizations (this was before animal rights organizations supplanted them) thought it cruel. I remember my mother owned a yellow shirt no doubt depicting one of the uses from the book or its successors, so Simon Bond had quite a cottage industry going for a time.

However, I didn’t find the book funny. I didn’t read it at my son, so don’t worry about its warping him. It only depicts in cartoons, wordlessly, cat corpses used in a variety of ways. Cruel? I don’t know, the books does not indicate how the cats died. So it might just represent judicious uses of an available resource–cats who died naturally. However, the book isn’t, you know, funny. It must have been a dark time for humor, coming out of the 1970s.

So I related to the first book and didn’t care much for the second book. But I think it took me about 20 minutes total to clear two books from my to-read shelves, so it was time well spent.

But I’ll pass on the other books in the Uses for a Dead Cat series, including the Complete and the Omnibus editions which came out in this century.

Books mentioned in this review: