My Take on Thomas McNamee's Book
I wanted to read more about Augusta. From the wintry opening scene in which she appeared – tiny, lost, and alone – I loved her story. I relished every detail Thomas McNamee so beautifully wrote about the tiny black kitten who trekked along a tire track in the snow until she found refuge on a pile of rags in his rural Montana barn.
For the first few pages of The Inner Life of Cats, I really was hooked. But not far into the first chapter, my attention began to lapse as the story veered away from Augusta. Was McNamee writing about his cat or was he giving a natural history lesson? Clearly, I hadn’t done my research before selecting my reading material.
Throughout the book, I found my interest fading in and out as I was unable to determine the point. At moments, the book is a lovely memoir about Augusta, the cat who was equally content to snuggle in bed with McNamee’s wife, Elizabeth, or to follow bear cubs at night on the ranch.
But at other times, The Inner Life of Cats is an entry-level cat-ownership manual, complete with snarky comments about Jackson Galaxy’s appearance. Not cool.
A chapter about feral cat colonies managed to hold my attention with a rich account of Rome’s well-to-do cat ladies and their volunteer efforts to care for the city’s street cats. But when McNamee went off on a tangent about the damage that free-ranging cats wreak on ecosystems in the US and Australia, my enthusiasm faded again.
One night as I neared the end, I flipped ahead to see how many pages remained, expecting a few acknowledgments or author notes. I wanted to determine whether to keep reading or to save what was left for the next night.
There were acknowledgements. And endnotes. Followed by a twenty-page bibliography. And finally an index. If only I had seen all of that before I started reading.
I don’t blame McNamee. Had the book been a pure memoir about Augusta, I would have been spellbound. But it branched off in too many directions for my taste. So who’s to blame? Myself, probably, for uninformed expectations and a lack of focus. Or I can shift the blame for my disappointment to someone I don’t know: McNamee’s agent. In his acknowledgements, McNamee credits his agent for advising him toward “More science, Tom,” and "less of you and that cat.”
That cat: Augusta. Also known as Little One, Dummy, Doodoo Head, Beauty Kitty, and Stoopie. I couldn't get enough of McNamee's love for her, playing with her pipe-cleaner spider toy and hunting mice. I guess when it comes to cat books, I prefer memoir to science.
I did learn one important lesson, though. Check the bibliography before starting any new book.
About Me (and my cats)
In January, 2018, my sassy tortoiseshell cat Oliva hijacked my blog. Padron, my easygoing tabby cat, soon followed her example. I did nothing to stop them because I thought they had some pretty interesting things to say. In April, Oliva died. To say we miss her is a pathetic understatement. She was sweet and bossy and unforgettable. And while I'll allow Padron to continue blogging from time to time, I think he needs to share this space with me. It's my blog, after all. Stay tuned for posts from me, the human running this site.