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 2, 2015

September 2, 1850

Perhaps you remember  the lines of "The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat." The fame of this children's verse by Eugene Field (September 2, 1850 to November 4, 1895) lasted until my chlidhood, and longer I think.

The whole poem goes like this:

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
T'was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink!

The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
I wasn't there: I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate !

The gingham dog went " Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,

While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true !)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,

Employing every tooth and claw,
In the awfullest way you ever saw—
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew
Don t fancy I exaggerate—
I got my news from the Chinese plate

Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace' of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!

But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
The old Dutch clock it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.

Eugene Field is more interesting than his children's verse. The very nice write-up at the Poetry Foundation, reminds us of his ribald verse, his dislike for children, his bonhomie and this response to a question from Mrs. Humphrey Ward:

She asked him, "Do you not find the social atmosphere of Chicago exceedingly crude, furnishing one with little intellectual companionship?" Field replied, "Really Mrs. Ward, ... I do not consider myself competent to give an opinion ... up to the time Barnum captured me and took me to Chicago to be civilized I had always lived in a tree in the wilds of Missouri."

The wilds of Missouri was claimed by another writer who made a topic of silly cats. T. S. Eliot was also born in St. Louis. Eliot (1888 – 1965), and presumably heard of calico cats at an impressionable age. Fields was wildly popular during his own life time and ---'calico' and 'practical' share an inner consonance to my ear.

September 1, 2015

September 1, 1937

Allen Weinstein (September 1, 1937 to June 18, 2015) American historian, taught at Georgetown and later was the head of the National Archives and Records Administration. Among his less controversial books is his co-authoring of Freedom and crisis; an American history (1974).

Here we find a cat reference in the account of the Salem witchcraft trials. Tituba, the authors state, in her testimony "included sketches of familiars used by Sarah Good, such as a yellow bird and a cat."

Weinstein is the son of immigrants and his career reminds us of the view of our country as a beacon of freedom. According to his New York Times obituary

His father, Samuel, who operated a series of delicatessens in the Bronx and Queens, had emigrated from Lithuania. His mother, the former Sarah Popkov, came from a town near Minsk.

After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School, Mr. Weinstein earned a bachelor of arts degree from City College. At Yale, he received a master’s degree and, in 1967, a doctorate, in American studies.

The Washington Post has a more nuanced obituary, and they mention:

...[He] became, ...., the “advance team in America” for Yeltsin, the Russian reformist leader. When hard-liners attempted a coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, Yeltsin and his camp [trapped in government buildings] used Dr. Weinstein as an intermediary in the United States, sending him faxes and other notifications of the news.
“It is military coup,” read the first. “Tanks are everywhere.”

Our details are meant to show the drama in the life of an American historian, and Dr. Weinstein is a good example of this.

August 31, 2015

August 31, 1999

Twice Sold Tales is the name of a bookstore in Seattle. It is listed as an abebooks bookseller since August 31, 1999.

You can see pictures of their book store cats here, but their sign is a standalone charmer:

Used books, twice sold tales, mean worn bindings, penciled comments, the chance for random treasures like bookplates or tickets to exotic locales falling out of the pages. 

You cannot share your Electronic Book, you cannot resell such books; heck you don't even really own your ebook. And you are helpless to monitor the unavoidable future changes to the text in your ebook, modifications meant to protect, hide, change, everybody's past. On the pleasant side, no one is interested in digitizing many of the books which interest people like us, the most.

August 30, 2015

August 30, 1926

Paul Gaylor (August 30, 1926 to May 5, 2011) is not a household name. His death was written up by the Freedom From Religion Foundation however, and we quote a good bit from their obituary. His wife was, I think, one of the founders of that organization. Their website must be honored by us who aspire to almanackical glory for they list the birthdays of a whole lot of atheists, many of whom deserve their fame.

Paul Joseph “Jody” Gaylor Jr., 84, Madison, Wis., who was married to Freedom From Religion Foundation President Emerita Anne Nicol Gaylor, died May 5, 2011, from cancer of the brain....He was born ... in Springfield, Mo., the eldest of three children of Paul Joseph Gaylor Sr. and Irma Fairman Gaylor.

A World War II U.S. Navy veteran, he graduated from Drury College in Springfield in 1948 and did graduate work at the University of Kansas City. He and Anne met in Kansas City. He was active in athletics, especially boxing. He married Anne Nicol on Dec. 29, 1949, in Springfield. They moved to Madison in 1952.

He was publisher of the Middleton Times-Tribune, a weekly newspaper, in the 1960s and was vice president for many years of a building maintenance company in Madison. He served as an FFRF officer for many years....

Jody was one of six plaintiffs in FFRF’s historic federal challenge of the National Day of Prayer. As a plaintiff, Jody entered into the court record his distaste for prayer and for the Sunday morning hypocrisy by racist deacons at the segregated worship services at the Church of Christ he attended. He always said religion “never took” with him, even as a small child. He was forced to submit to a full baptism immersion at age 12 in front of his congregation, an affront he never forgave. His standard line, when asked if he believed in God, was to reply, “No, but I believe in the fool catcher.”

After retirement, he took over household duties. He was a skilled cook and baker and presided over special “family dinners,” as well as functions of FFRF and the Women’s Medical Fund, the abortion fund charity co-founded by Anne Gaylor, which has helped nearly 20,000 women. He loved to serve his frosted brownies and other specialties. Jody tested many of the recipes appearing in FFRF’s World Famous Atheist Cookbook, and several of his recipes are included in it.

He served for more than two decades as FFRF’s principal volunteer — picking up and sorting mail, filling sales orders, chauffeuring his wife to numerous FFRF functions, doing errands and building repair and often surprising staff and volunteers with freshly baked cookies. He was principal photographer at FFRF events for its first two decades, taking convention and other photos appearing in FFRF’s original newsletter and then in Freethought Today. He also served as volunteer photographer for The Feminist Connection, the monthly newspaper that his daughter Annie Laurie edited and published from 1980-84.

He...[was] survived by his wife of 61 years, Anne [ who died in 2015]; four children, Andrew, twins Ian and Annie Laurie, and Jamie; two much-loved granddaughters, Sabrina Gaylor, 21, and Lily Anne Gaylor, 9; a son-in-law, Dan Barker; and three daughters-in-law, Lisa Strand, Nancy McClements and Carrie Gaylor.
A sister, Margaret “Peggy” Gaylor Babunovic of Huntsville, Ala., also survives. His younger brother, Richard, died in childhood.  Jody chose cremation with burial of ashes in a family plot, and requested no funeral or memorial service. ....

[Above Jody Gaylor is testing].... recipes, with Atticus perched on a chair, for The World Famous Atheist Cookbook in the late 1980s.

Nice folks.

August 29, 2015

August 29, 1862

Maurice Maeterlinck (August 29, 1862 to May 6, 1949) was born in Belgium but wrote his novels, plays, and essays in French. He cared about metaphysics, and was a mystic and a fatalist. The Catholic Church forbid Catholics to read his books in 1914, but by then, he had won a Nobel Prize for literature (1911). He was too old to fight in World War I, and during World War II he was in the United States.

The Double Garden (1904) translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos is a series of essays. We quote from the first chapter, "Our Friend the Dog." Maeterlinck here demonstrates his ability to inhabit the world of the other. The story is told by a dog.

... I do not speak of the cat, to whom we are nothing more than a too large and uneatable prey: the ferocious cat, whose sidelong contempt tolerates us only as encumbering parasites in our own homes. She, at least, curses us in her mysterious heart; but all the other...[creatures] live beside us as they might live beside a rock or a tree. They do not love us, do not know us, scarcely notice us.

August 28, 2015

August 28, 1924

Janet Frame, (August 28, 1924 to January 29, 2004)  according to the blurb at google books:

.... is New Zealand's most internationally acclaimed and distinguished author. ...... In 1983 she was awarded a CBE for services to literature, and in 1990 was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand, the country's highestcivil honour. In her lifetime Janet Frame published eleven novels, four collections of short stories, a book of poetry, achildren's book and three volumes of autobiography. Another novel, a book of poetry, a compilation of selected stories and a non-fiction collection have since been published posthumously .....

Janet Frame's autobiographical volumes were made into a film by Jane Campion, "An Angel At My Table." Frame's life throws a vivid glare on the idea of fiction.

Frame wrote " The Cat of Habit":

The cat of habit
knows the place by heart
or at least by space, scent, direction, bulk,
by shadow and light
moonlight starlight sunlight
and where to nest in each
with a three-focussed shut eye
on who or what's coming and going
on the earth and in the sky
and distantly, not present, the rays of inkling
shining within the furred skull.

...... This is the first stanza, and the whole poem was featured in the Cat Museum of San Francisco.

August 27, 2015

August 27, 1932

Antonia Fraser, was born on August 27, 1932. This novelist, historian, biographer, memoirist exhibits the best upper class sensibility of the last century, and she continues to thrive. Like her mother did, she writes histories. Her first substantial historical  work was a biography of Mary Queen of Scots. From the start she exhibits that empathy which enables us to transcend centuries. We understand how Mary might have murdered her husband, and could run off with the man widely believed to have been involved. Mary Queen of Scots was published in 1969. This empathic power did not extend to her lover's wife. Somewhere I read a comment suggesting impatience with Vivien Merchant's refusal to divorce Harold Pinter.

It might have been in Fraser's book, Must you go, my life with Harold Pinter (2010). This book is arranged chronologically. When she was writing The Gunpowder Plot: terror and faith in 1605, (1996) she says:

It was a good year altogether: two grandchildren born, William and Honor, and even our cat, beloved Catalina gave birth to two kittens under my bed: Pushkin and Placido. Placido is with me as I write. The delicate balance involved in comparing your cat to your grandchildren she carries off with her usual panache.