The cat book with the funny title written by the funnier Francesco Marciuliano, hit the New York Times best seller list in September. I Could Pee On This: And Other Poems By Cats is a book of quirky poems “written” by cats and nicely packaged with cat photos. The size, price and appeal makes it our choice for the stocking stuffer of 2012. The poems are cute and funny but tinged with the wisdom and insight that only a true cat lover has. A vigorous and amusing back and forth email exchange with the charming author resulted in an exclusive Q & A.
If cats can write poetry, then cats can write book reviews and both Merlin and Odin were game. Odin (pictured above) did not want to let go of his copy and felt inspired to rally the cat troops to feline creativity.
Q & A with Francesco Marciuliano
LMW: Who is the cat on the cover of your book?
FM:The photo was actually selected by my publisher, Chronicle Books. Oddly enough, the cat on the cover is an exact twin for the stray my parents look after, Fluffy. As a matter of fact, when I was growing up my family regularly cared for countless strays, many who went by such names as “Fluffy,” “Other Fluffy,” “Didn’t We Already Name a Cat Fluffy?” and “Hobbes” (because that had to happen eventually). As for “Fluffy 2012,” my dad not only feeds him but also got him his shots, had him spayed, and even built him a Snoopy-like dog(cat)house. This is a long way of saying that when I received my first copy of the book, I immediately took a picture of it with my dad’s cat, resulting in what appears to be the promotional photo for an autobiography.
LMW:Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you cat-free at the moment?
FM: I had two cats–a brother and sister named Boris and Natasha–from shortly after I graduated college to two years ago, thereby spanning my entire adult life so far. Boris passed away at age 14 in 2007 and Natasha passed away on Christmas Day, 2010. I still feel the loss and though I completely understand people who address their grief by adopting another cat, I just was not ready to do so. I hope to one day, and writing this book was initiated as both a form of both catharsis and celebration of two wonderful animals who remain very near and dear to my heart.
LMW: If you were looking to adopt, how would you select a cat?
FM:I’ve adopted all my pets from shelters and will continue to do so. Many of these animals have been abandoned or abused and greatly need a loving home and the daily assurance that they are special and safe. After that the process is one of bonding, as I’m sure it is with all pet owners. When I adopted Boris and Natasha I knew I wanted two cats so they would never be wanting for company when left alone in the house, an odd wish given that at the time I almost never left my apartment due to then routine unemployment. (Having graduated Duke with an eye on being a syndicated cartoonist–which is akin to stating as your career objective “hot air balloonist” or “falconer/pearl diver”–work did not come quickly at first.) I eventually found my two kittens at a vet hospital. When I picked up Natasha she immediately started constantly purring and resting her head on my pulse points. When I picked up Boris he calmly sat in the palm of hands and blinked, never uttering a sound. And I knew right then they were the perfect pair. It also helped that I could keep a brother and sister together.
LMW: Why do you think cats are culturally hot?
FM: I think part of it is that while dogs are constantly trying to tell us what they are thinking, with cats we’re always left wondering what they’re keeping from us, and I think a lot of people find that fascinating. That mystery results in people projecting their own thoughts on to cats, and that creates a very special, very unique bond. Plus, cats seem to put so much effort into appearing calm, cool, and collected that when they do something spectacularly odd or awkward it just looks hilarious on video.
LMW: What is the strangest place a cat ever peed?
FM: Haha. I take it you mean what is the strangest place one of my cats have ever peed, otherwise this will involve a lot of lengthy, perhaps unwelcome research that one does not want on their browser history. However, as far as my pets are concerned, several years back a friend who was between apartments crashed on my sofa for a few weeks. During that time my cat Boris carefully, purposefully, peed on every single item my friend owned, practically ruining all of his life’s possessions. But at night Boris would happily rest on my friend’s chest as they slept on the couch. Turns out Boris didn’t hate my friend. He just didn’t like his taste in things.
LMW: If you were stuck on a desert island and had to make a Sophie’s Choice, what pet would you bring?
FM:Perhaps the one upside to not having a pet right now is that I don’t have to worry about making such a choice. But if I did I’d probably say, “You know what? I think I won’t get shipwrecked today. Cancel that cruise through the Bermuda Triangle and my reservation on that plane missing three engines.” However, if I somehow did wind up on a desert island due to poor vacation planning, I wouldn’t want an animal to be suffering along with me. So I’d probably take a lesson from a little film called “Cast Away” and befriend some sort of sporting equipment. Maybe a football because when you rest it on its side the stitching makes it look like it’s always smiling. Then I could ask the football what’s so funny? But he wouldn’t answer. So then I would yell, “Fine!” and storm off to the other side of the island. But after several years of being driven mad by loneliness and unsuccessfully trying to make a radio out of coconuts like on “Gilligan’s Island” I would return, give the football a big hug, and then spend the rest of my insane life pretending we were on a sitcom about mismatched roommates.
LMW: What are you working on next?
FM: My next book is, of course, the dog edition and is called “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House and Other Poems by Dogs.” It comes out Fall 2013 and the final manuscript has been approved and is good to go to design. There will also be a “I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats” wall calendar that comes out next year for 2014, featuring new poems.
Marciuliano is the author of Sally Forth, an internationally syndicated comic strip. He was also the head writer for the highly praised PBS children’s series SeeMore’s Playhouse. He lives in New York City and is currently catless.
Merlin may be blind but enjoyed hearing me read the poems to him. They inspired him to take a big pee in the garden for real.
Can you tell Odin loves it, just a little?
I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats
Published 2012 by Chronicle Books
122 pages. Hardcover.
Rating: 4 paws
If you’d like to win a copy of this must have book, simply leave a comment at this post any time before 11:59 PM Oct.13, 2012. Good Luck! The winner will be announced next Sunday.
If you must have a copy right now…
The winners of last week’s giveaway for the coloring books from Tiniest Tiger is Kelly D. and the winner of the Bangle Bear book is Lisa Fleming. Congratulations! Look for an email from Layla.