02 May 2012

Kitty Cornered (Bob Tarte)

When I picked up a book with that wild-eyed feline on the cover and the title Kitty Cornered: How Frannie and Five Other Incorrigible Cats Seized Control of Our House and Made It Their Home, I was fully prepared for adorableness and shenanigans. While Bob Tarte's memoir has those in spades, it's also sweet, funny, poignant, and best of all, strewn with bits of absolutely lovely prose.

For instance, he describes "that oddly unhurried but determined feline [run]: erect body, stiffly trailing tail, legs flickering like the frames of a silent movie." Or how Frannie (a frightened stray who makes her way from their yard to their porch to their house--a familiar vector) "was white with mostly black hind legs that made her look as if she were wearing a pair of tights that were falling down." And when she looks at him, "her face fleetingly resembled a dozen different animals: a flying fox bat, weasel, bush baby, panther, lemur, spotted gecko, Our Gang star Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, and obscure creatures I didn't recognize. I have seen all these beasts in kitties I've known (well, not "Alfalfa"); I've also known them to look like a kangaroo, crème brûlée, a Holstein calf, a harried maître d', even a snake, peeking out from under a blanket so all you see is pointy nose and half-open yellow eyes.

Tarte is unabashedly anthropomorphic, and often hilarious, as he chronicles the adventures of his and wife Linda's eventual six cats: Agnes, perpetrators of daily attempts on his life on the basement stairs; elderly Moobie, who requires her water dish held off the floor for her delectation; Lucy, described as "very affectionate!" by the friend they adopted her from, but who turns out to be a "continent of crabbiness" who Tarte makes it his life's mission to befriend; goofy, chubby Maynard, who came to them as Mabel and whose craving for attention is equally only by his ability to wail nonstop when not receiving such; Tina, another stray who becomes Maynard's much-needed BFF, the bane of their bathroom wallpaper, and Frannie's nemesis; and Frannie, Tarte's soul mate in anxiety. I cheered her every step toward domesticity, and shed a tear at a setback or two. (NOTE TO MY SISTER: No kitties die in this book! Don't worry!)

I know a lot of cat people, and a lot of book people. All you in the overlap in that Venn diagram? You should all read this one. (My copy is going in the mail as a Mother's Day gift!)

5/5: UPDATE for you visual learners--pictures of the cat cast! Miss Frannie is a Benny-type cat as I suspected.


  1. I enjoyed Bob's book, and your blog about his book! Both are definitely a must-read!

  2. With his engaging humor and a writing style that makes us feel that we are once again in Lowell, Michigan visiting our old friends the Tartes, Bob shows us the inside of his world, filled with fowl, felines and other funny stuff.

  3. This book will make perfect sense. Laugh out loud funny just like Enslaved By Ducks. Bob Tarts has wonderful way of describing what looks like heaven to me.


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