The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

September 21, 2014

September 21, 1728

We are not certain about the birth date of Francis Place, but this English artist died September 21, 1728. The baroque era engraver was born in 1647 to people of means in the north of England. He learned the skills of that trade from Wenzel Hollar, a famous engraver who like Place, started in the study of law, but switched to something closer to his heart. Here is a sample of the work of Francis Place.

Battle between the Eagle & Cat is part of the Beasts show at CUAG.

Though it is difficult to imagine this was drawn from life, the detail is rather amazing. 

After the plague made London dangerous, Place returned to York and spent the rest of his life centered on his childhood environs. He was part of a circle there, of artists and antiquaries. Below is his home, which still exists, though before Place and his family lived there, it had been part of an abbey, and now, it is part of a university complex. 

September 20, 2014

September 20, 1941

Dale Chihuly (September 20, 1941) is a famous glass artist whose fans include a large portion of a general populace. Kind of like Kinkaide but --- the critics also, regard Chihuly highly. The organic forms of his blown glass sprout, hang, spring forth and wind up, across the world. Here is a detailed article about the man behind the glass, and it is worth checking out.

August 22, 2014 saw a less fortunate aspect of his fame occur. There was a break-in at the Denver Botanic Gardens and some of his sculpture was stolen. Here is the piece in question:

Several spikes were removed from Chihuly's installation. The piece is called "Cat Tails."

Regarding the value of the stolen art, Brian Vogt, CEO of Denver Botanic Gardens is quoted by a local news source:

"I am outraged by crime in general, but theft of something so cherished by the public very much upsets me," said Vogt.  The spikes were orange and red in color and part of the Cat Tails piece. "Maybe they could sell it to someone or keep it as a souvenir, but really no, it wouldn't have much value," said Sandy Sardella, owner of Pismo Fine Art Glass. "People have asked me a lot in the last 24 hours, about the value of these pieces. The value is the joy in their eyes," said Vogt. Denver Botanic Gardens said it is working closely with local authorities, but so far they have no suspects in this case.  Vogt told 7NEWS that security at the attraction is the tightest it's ever been in the garden's history.

September 19, 2014

September 19, 1932

Nowhere in Africa, (1995, in German) is a novel sketching the life of a Jewish family in colonial Africa (Kenya) after their escape from Nazi Germany. In 2003 the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film went to the cinematic portrayal of the story.

The original book is an autobiographical account by Stefanie Zweig ( (September 19, 1932 to April 25 2014). In the book, a six year old child arrives in the British colony, with a father she describes as " a little gray mouse then and afraid of every cat".

Her New York Times obituary sketches her life after the war ends:

Returning to bombed-out Frankfurt in 1947, the family joined a hungry, traumatized population in rebuilding the country. Scores of their German relatives were missing. None had been heard from since the start of the war in 1939, except a grandmother, who got a letter out in 1941 with the help of the Red Cross.

“They were only allowed to write 20 words,” Ms. Zweig told an interviewer in 2003. “My grandmother wrote — ‘We are very excited. We are going to Poland tomorrow.’ ” ....

But her father cautioned her against indiscriminate hatred, she wrote in an essay in The Guardian in 2003. As a child she was not allowed to hate all Germans, she said, “only the Nazis.”

For a year after returning to Frankfurt, the family lived in one room at the city’s former Jewish hospital. She wrote, “We spent our days hunting for food and our evenings wondering why nearly every German we talked to told us that they had always hated Hitler and had felt pity for the persecuted Jews.”

Her father became a judge in the post war German court system. Stefanie Zweig became a journalist, and novelist.  Among her other books are Irgendwo in Deutschland (Somewhere in Germany) (1996), (a sequel). And her memoirs were published in 2012: Nowhere was Home: My Life on two Continents.

We'll end our glimpse of this other world with these words from her New York Times obit:

Ms. Zweig wrote "Nowhere in Africa” in German, as she did all her books, but admitted to remaining unsure throughout her life whether English or German was her true native language.  “I count in English, [and] adore Alice in Wonderland, ...” she wrote in her Guardian essay, “and I am still hunting for the humor in German jokes.”

September 18, 2014

September 18, 1893

William March (September 18, 1893 to May 15, 1954), was an American writer. He is obscure today, and he was in the 1930s, when he started writing. Some of his novels are, The Tallons, (1936) and October Island (1952). His prose was excellent, as we can observe in this excerpt from The Tallons:

She lifted the overfed kitchen cat, curled him into her lap, and thought of her uncles and the complexity of their relationship. She had not known what the quarrel was about, but she had speculated over it a good deal.

According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama:

The Looking-Glass is generally considered to be March's best Alabama-based work and, indeed, his best novel. His biographer, Roy S. Simmonds, called the novel March's "most accomplished full-length work."

His life is interesting and I suggest reading the article at the link already cited. There I learned that, after he  had a novel published in April, March was found dead of a heart attack in his bed. In his typewriter there was the first page of another novel, titled: "Poor Pilgrim, Poor Stranger."

The Bad Seed was published in April of 1954. March did not live to see his book made into a successful Broadway play, and a famous movie. If you just saw the movie, you missed the complete grimness of that work. The Bad Seed is an attempt by the 20th century to come to grips with the implications of major scientific advances of the modern era. The movie was sanitized. 

September 17, 2014

September 17, 1965

John Davy Hayward, (February 2, 1905 to September 17, 1965), was a literary scholar, who came from a prosperous family of medical professionals. According to his Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article: After Cambridge, Hayward lost little time in establishing an independent existence in London and, his wheelchair notwithstanding, pursuing with energy and success the life of a freelance literary man.

Hayward published authoritative editions of various English poets, from Wilmot to T. S. Eliot, and a number of anthologies. He also was, not just a collector of books, but edited the Book Collector, which became the standard magazine for collectors in the English speaking world, after Ian Fleming founded that periodical. Hayward received a CBE in 1953.

Hayward's London flat, at "19 Carlyle Mansions, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, his home from March 1946 until his death, " was the center of a literary salon of European renown. 

 Hayward had known T. S. Eliot since 1925. The first ten years Hayward lived at Carlyle Mansions, he and Eliot were flat mates. 

But before then, their friendship may be gauged by the fact Eliot dedicated Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939) to several folks, including, at the end of the dedicatory lines, "The Man in White Spats." That man was John Hayward.

September 16, 2014

September 16, 1911

Hishida Shunsō  (September 21, 1874 to  September 16, 1911) Japanese artist of the Meiji era, is a very famous artist in Japan, and his fondness of cat paintings is part of that. Japanese culture has valued felines centuries longer than the West. Shunso traveled in Europe and may have been influenced by Impressionism. His art used a gradation of colors which was attacked by his countrymen as 'vague.' He in fact later made lines more prominent within his subtle color changes, probably as a result of the criticism. 

The above is dated to 1906, and titled, per someone on G+, "Cat and Plum Blossoms."

September 15, 2014

September 15, 1890

Agatha Christie (September 15, 1890 to January 12,  1976) wrote, a lot -- 79 novels and short story collections by one count,  We have this short story for a feline glance. The story does not feature her later detectives, but is in the same mood which created Hercule Poirot as a detective who disliked cats.

"The Strange Case of Sir Arthur Carmichael" was published in 1933. It is one of Christie's supernatural mysteries. The story begins as the

trifling affair of the grey cat. For some reason or other the thing was getting on my nerves. I dreamed of cats–I continually fancied I heard him. Now and then in the distance I caught a glimpse of the beautiful animal."

The suspense builds when:  

We were sitting in the green drawing room, as on the night of my arrival, when it came — the loud insistent miawing of a cat outside the door. But this time it was unmistakably angry in its tone — a fierce cat yowl, long-drawn and menacing. And then as it ceased, the brass hook outside the door was rattled violently, as by a cat's paw. 

Shortly, -- it is after all a short story -- we discover  a man  appears possessed by the spirit of a bloodthirsty cat. A cat which gives itself away, when after dinner, the eponymouse character leaps to chase a mouse, and squats then, beside the wainscotting where the mouse is hiding. 

We forgive Christie the inept description of the rattle made by a cat's paw, because she also includes in her story a book, "An ancient and curious work on the possibilities of the metapmorphosis of human beings into animals."