Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 239 (9/30) -- Cat Getting Out of a Bag by Jeffrey Brown

There are books that exist for entirely extra-literary reasons -- or, to be even more general, extra-artistic, since some non-literary books, like collections of art or photographs without supporting text, can have artistic interest without literary interest. But there are a few books that have none of that -- no story, no fine art, no information about the world or about the creator's state of mind -- that exist for entirely different purposes.

Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations, one of what seem like thousands of books produced by the frighteningly prolific Jeffrey Brown over the last half-decade, is one such book. By producing it, Brown is saying, "I am a cat person." By buying it, consumers are saying the same thing. And, in publishing it, Chronicle gambled that there are enough cat people that even the subset of them who will see this book and buy it on an impulse is large enough to be worth pursuing.

Out of a Bag has about a hundred pages of art, most of them short strips tightly focused on Brown's most recent cat, Misty -- he notes, in his biography at the end, that he's currently "between cats" -- in her various antics and activities. That's all as if from the POV of another cat; the viewpoint is a few inches off of the ground, right at Misty's eye-level. Interspersed between those are a few full-page illustrations in a more realistic style -- portraits of a cat in various moods, I suppose. There's a relentless focus on the smallest, most quotidian moments, with the aim of striking recognition in other cat lovers -- they, presumably, will see Misty sneezing or being frightened of a dustbuster or jumping up onto a counter and squeal in recognition and happiness.

I, on the other hand, was vaguely interested in the closeness of Brown's observations of his cat -- he's really paid attention to small bits of behavior, and that's a great basis for a larger work. This particular book, however, is very small and entirely of interest to the kind of people who think cats are infinitely fascinating. Good for them, I suppose.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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