Book Review: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot ★★★

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"You've read of several kinds of Cat,
And my opinion now is that
You should need no interpreter
To understand their character.
You now have learned enough to see
That Cats are much like you and me
And other people whom we find
Possessed of various types of mind.
For some are sane and some are mad
And some are good and some are bad
And some are better, some are worse --
But all may be described in verse."

This little book was great and I am so happy I finally read it! I love T.S.Eliot and I really enjoyed seeing this different side to his poetry. 3.5 stars for this one!

I have a really neat old copy of Old Possum’s Book and I just got around to reading it. I am not a huge poetry reader generally. I love the poetry that I read usually, but sometimes it is a chore to actually pick them up and get through them for me. Well, I was in the mood for some recently and remembered that I owned this little gem. I thought about it, when I saw a preview for the new Cats movie. Now, I was never a fan of the Cats play (because come on those outfits were terrifying 😅), but I knew that Eliot’s book of cat poetry was what inspired the Broadway production in the first place. Sooooo, that is how I came to the decision that heck yeah, I wanted to read some poems about some practical cats!

I wasn’t sure what to expect really, going in, because I have always known T.S. Eliot to be a somber, rather austere poet, with a dash of irony and humor here and there. Exactly why I love him! So I was curious to see how he wrote about a bunch of alley-cats and the like. I was pleasantly surprised by this! It is really goofy and funny, with a ridiculous sincerity that speaks of fairytales or children’s stories. The rules of the cat world are all laid out with a tongue in cheek seriousness that is really charming. The names of the cats, too, were so silly and inflated. It just does a really great job of conveying a sense of whimsy and play, that I wasn’t expecting from Eliot. But now, having read it, it does seem to fit him quite well.

These are practical cats, after all, so even these rhymes and poems steeped in the ridiculous are well crafted, and adhere to a strict sense of order. This is no half-assed book for kids, but a funny and warm collection of poems that was actually written as a joke for adults. That might be my favorite thing about this book: that T.S. Eliot composed it in secret and then anonymously sent finished copies to his close friends. He was just looking to amuse them and used his witty, silly cat poems to do so. There is a special place in my heart for literary practical jokes and pranks like that, and it just cracks me up to think of those people stumbling upon little poems and stories about Mr. Mistoffelees and Macavity the Mystery Cat and The Rum Tum Tugger. You just can’t help but smile, and feel uplifted and amused by them. I wish literary pranks were more of thing these days!

I thoroughly enjoyed my reading of Old Possum’s Book and am really glad that I finally did so. Eliot remains one of my all-time favorite poets. There were really cool little cat doodles in my copy of the book, as well, which added to the experience of learning about the secret life of cats. My favorites of the poems had to be: “Macavity: The Mystery Cat,” “Gus: The Theatre Cat,” “The Ad-dressing of Cats,” and “Growltiger’s Last Stand.” You’ll be sure to enjoy them, too!

Finally, some good reading!

Thanks for reading, friends!

Title: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
Author: T.S. Eliot
Genre: Poetry | Classics | Fiction | Animals: Cats | Humor
Publication Date: 1939
Page Count: 60
Buy It:  Book Depository Wordery

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