Literary Arcadia Literature and other things

I Am a Blog Post

I have finished Natsume Soseki’s long and rambling novel, I Am a Cat.  It did take a bit of perseverance on my part – the book is not only long, but often waxing philosophical on no one subject in particular.  Sometimes no action occurs for an entire chapter.  Some parts are laugh out loud funny (when the cat tries to catch a rat), some not so much.

cat-catching-a-mouse

I Am a Cat begins with a stray cat beguiling his way into a home- the home of an English teacher and his family.  Much of the remainder of the book is the cat (who is never named) observing and commenting upon his master, the master’s wife and daughters, and the small group of friends that can often be found discussing all sort of nonsense in the study of the house. Also, for some reason, all of the characters have very odd names (or odd in translation at least).  This may have been Soseki poking fun at them, but it is very odd to me to name the cat’s master “Mr. Sneaze”.

Most of the action occurs when one or more friends visit.  One friend, Waverhouse, always tells ridiculous (mostly fabricated) stories, and needles everyone.  Another friend, Coldmoon, is a “lost scholar” type, continually changing his focus to increasingly obscure subjects.  The cat sits in the study and listens to these ramblings.

This book could be very interesting if one was studying middle-class families in turn of the century Japan, or animals as main characters.  Otherwise I found that sometimes I lost the thread of conversations because they went on for so long (really most of the book is the overheard conversations in the study), and I am not an expert on Meiji-era Japan.  Since Soseki originally wrote the book in sections for a magazine (and indeed did not even intend to continue the story beyond the first chapter), I feel a bit is lost by reading it in book form.

This book, being so long-winded, is quite a change from the other books I am reading for the Japanese literature challenge.  Overall I felt that I enjoyed it the least.  It was alright, but cannot be read quickly, and is best read in bits and pieces.

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