“And now sometimes I’m interviewed, they want to hear about life and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed, shot, runover, de-tailed cat and I say, “Look, look at this!” But they don’t understand, they say something like, “You say you’ve been influenced by Celine”… “No!” I hold up the cat, “by what happens, by things like this, by this, by this!” — Charles Bukowski
I’m in the process of reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. Today, I started chapter 4, the chapter in which Leopold Bloom makes his first appearance. The chapter that begins with the famous line “Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.” I’ve read this chapter before, a long while back, but I didn’t remember the part where Bloom is interacting with his cat. The line that I highlighted is the one line in which Joyce does his stream-of-consciousness bit with the cat:
…The cat walked stiffly round a leg of the table with tail on high.
–O, there you are, Mr Bloom said, turning from the fire.
The cat mewed in answer and stalked again stiffly round a leg of the table, mewing. Just how she stalks over my writingtable. Prr. Scratch my head. Prr.
Mr Bloom watched curiously, kindly the lithe black form. Clean to see: the gloss of her sleek hide, the white button under the butt of her tail, the green flashing eyes. He bent down to her, his hands on his knees.
–Milk for the pussens, he said.
–Mrkgnao! the cat cried.
They call them stupid. They understand what we say better than we understand them. She understands all she wants to. Vindictive too. Cruel. Her nature. Curious mice never squeal. Seem to like it. Wonder what I look like to her. Height of a tower? No, she can jump me.
–Afraid of the chickens she is, he said mockingly. Afraid of the chookchooks. I never saw such a stupid pussens as the pussens.
Cruel. Her nature. Curious mice never squeal. Seem to like it.
–Mrkrgnao! the cat said loudly.
She blinked up out of her avid shameclosing eyes, mewing plaintively and long, showing him her milkwhite teeth. He watched the dark eyeslits narrowing with greed till her eyes were green stones. Then he went to the dresser, took the jug Hanlon’s milkman had just filled for him, poured warmbubbled milk on a saucer and set it slowly on the floor.
–Gurrhr! she cried, running to lap.
He watched the bristles shining wirily in the weak light as she tipped three times and licked lightly. Wonder is it true if you clip them they can’t mouse after. Why? They shine in the dark, perhaps, the tips. Or kind of feelers in the dark, perhaps.
He listened to her licking lap. Ham and eggs, no. No good eggs with this drouth. Want pure fresh water. Thursday: not a good day either for a mutton kidney at Buckley’s. Fried with butter, a shake of pepper. Better a pork kidney at Dlugacz’s. While the kettle is boiling. She lapped slower, then licking the saucer clean. Why are their tongues so rough? To lap better, all porous holes. Nothing she can eat? He glanced round him. No. …
After reading this, I’m listening for my cat to say “Mrkrgnao!” I haven’t heard it yet. Maybe because my cat isn’t Irish. Or, maybe that’s a swear word in cat language and my cat doesn’t swear. Or, perhaps, I don’t have Joyce’s ear. Maybe since Joyce was Irish he interpreted sounds different than we Americans. I don’t know.
This gives me an opportunity to show off some of my cat photos: