Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons
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When his favorite cat Biscuit goes missing, Peter Trachtenberg sets out to find her. The journey takes him 700 miles and many years into his past--into the history of his relationships with cats and the history of his relationship with his wife F., who may herself be on the verge of disappearing. What ensues is a work that recalls travel narratives from The Incredible Journey to W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. Trachtenberg ponders the mysteries of feline intelligence (why do cats score worse on some tests than pigeons?), the origins of their domestication, their terrible treatment during the Middle Ages. He also looks at the riddle of why any of us loves whom we love and all the unforeseen places to which that devotion leads us.
F. We were introduced to her at the same time. But it was me she came up to first and my hand she began licking. In the same way, Zuni made a beeline for F. when we came to look at her at her breeder’s, who was giving her away because her kittens weren’t show quality. She was already full-grown, plush and tubby, a little matronly. We tried to play with her by rolling a ball back and forth between us, and the tabby followed it, but 0738215266-text_Layout 1 8/24/12 10:06 AM Page 53 Another
episodes occurred when I was placed in a cage with other kids and told to have fun. Cedric was small and quick and lithe. Wilfredo was big and soft and slow moving, with a round, shaved head. There was something muffled about him, as if he’d been wrapped in dense cotton batting in order to protect him, but at the cost of an entranced, blinking passivity. What nobody had told us, least of all the charity that sent him to us, was that he was only six. When I put him on a bike, Wilfredo wobbled and
practice to pretend you didn’t really want the person you were ready to cut out your heart for? The Greeks knew nothing of this. She may have asked me if I was proposing, wanting clarification. I said I was. I was proposing to her. Would she marry me? After a while, she said yes. For hundreds of years before the invention of dating, taking a walk was one of the few things a young man could acceptably ask a girl he liked to do with him. Would you like to go out walking with me, Miss Alice? Walking
this was the practice until well into the last century. However, even when engaged in her own pursuits, the woman is now identified as belonging to—as being of—the leviathan or, for all practical purposes, her husband. It’s as if instead of wearing a ring, she were carrying a little mask (I imagine it as being made of gold) with her husband’s face on it, and on certain occasions she must hold the face in front of hers and speak from behind it, as if in keeping with Genesis 20:16: “Behold, he is
him killed in order to possess her. The subterfuge saves his skin, but at the cost of her chastity, or the near cost, depending on how you read “took.” Abimelech insists he never laid a finger on Sarah. Or, at least, that’s what he says when God appears to him in a dream and tells him he’s a dead man for taking liberties with her, and even if he’s lying, you can hardly blame him. I mean, who knew? Most biblical commentaries put forth the view that “a covering of the eyes” refers to the veil that