Up close and purrsonal with I Could Pee On This Too: And More Poems By More Cats NY Times bestselling author Francesco Marciuliano.
If you’re available at 10 am PT, check out the I Could Pee On This Too #ICPOT2 Facebook Live event to celebrate the release of the long awaited sequel to I Could Pee On This: And Other Poems By Cats. It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since we reviewed the international bestseller which has sold over a million copies and launched follow-up bestsellers: I Could Chew on This, I Knead My Mommy, and You Need More Sleep by Francesco Marciuliano.
Since 2011, I’ve reviewed hundreds of books and interviewed dozens of writers. It’s usually by phone or email, but after five years of corresponding with Mr. I Could Pee On This or Ces, it was time to finally meet in person.
Scroll down to find out more about the man, his cats and is whether this really is last cat book.
But first, our feline reviewer Odin would like to share a few words. He’s a bit bummed the cat is out of the bag, again. Cats love keeping secrets but the wildly, witty poems spill the beans about all things cat and their humans. No subject is off limits. Behavior good, bad and crazy. Deep thoughts on life, home, new relationships, meals, rules, cat names, sleeping, jobs, the vet and a new pee poem to delight readers. What’s funny is the horrible recognition that it’s all true.
I suggested we meet at Koneko, a cat cafe. What could be better for two cat lovers? I live commuting distance from Grand Central. He lives on the upper west side and it’s easy to meet in the middle but a comedy of errors ensued.
Thank the cat gods for cell phones. A film crew shooting a promo for the new book chez Ces with his cats and our meeting got delayed. Over the years, the unfailingly polite author was always gracious but I wondered would the funny syndicated cartoonist and writer be as funny in person.
Time for Plan B. There was a funny sequence of messages, missed messages and missteps but we ended up hanging out at an outdoor bar for three hours talking shop, cats and life. Check out the “I Could Pee on This Too Writing School For Cats” video that created the delay. It was worth it. Leelo and Kiki, tuxie sisters who I suspect did most of the writing, make their debut. Leelo is the star and the props all belong to Marciuliano.
Decked out in shorts, t-shirt and baseball cap from Duke U, his alma mater, we hugged hello. He’s taller than I’d imagined and looks much younger than someone turning the big 5-0 next year. We fell into an easy but deep conversation that would have been impossible five years ago. Success, like four, mega bestselling books in four years is apt to change someone and it has. It’s offered the opportunity to invest in pricey Manhattan real estate, to present from CatCon to ComicCon and help out his parents financially.
The media attention forced the lifelong, neurotically shy guy to become more comfortable in front of the camera. This is the guy who used to OCD walk for miles daily. Ces (we can be informal, right?) said he could never have done the book video five years ago. That’s how shy he was. He still doesn’t like being photographed. You will not find a selfie stick in his hand, ever. I’m painfully aware of photographing anyone who doesn’t like it and either shoot candids or super fast. In this case, 10 seconds, two shots. It was early evening in Manhattan and think this captures him and his famous squint.
What hasn’t changed is his ego or lack there of. The Francesco Marciuliano I’ve known, loves to say, “thank you very much”. The man I met in person has zero pretensions. He is not like the character he’s playing in the video but more laid back and fun than I expected. A smart, savvy, elliptical thinker, I found him more mentally stimulating than stand-up comic funny.
Publishing is brutally competitive and I don’t know any writer who wouldn’t want a NY Times bestseller. If they say they don’t care, they’re lying or in denial. Writers can turn every shade of green with envy at successful writers and we dished about the industry. Sorry, it’s off the record not because he told me to but because this isn’t a tabloid. No one is more surprised and humbled by his success than Ces. He’s self-deprecating, oozes gratitude and old world charm. He knows he’s talented but lucky. And he’s nice.
I gave him my review copy to autograph and expected it back in three seconds. And waited as he hunched over scribbling. I didn’t want to hover and couldn’t see what was taking so long. An autograph, a note and and drawing. Like I said, nice.
Five years ago, the author, a syndicated cartoonist never expected his cat book to make the NY Times best-seller list, let alone sell over a million copies. In August of 2012 and Marciuliano escaped muggy Manhattan for a month by the sea in Portugal. It’s his annual family getaway where his parents have a place above a cafe. And yes, he vacations with his elderly parents every year (he’s there right now and it’s fun). His editor and agent didn’t expect the book to hit the bestseller list and didn’t tell him. He found out via a spotty wifi connection from Portugal and the rest is history. All, meant to be, as he claims, beginning with inspiration from the infamous Charlie Sheen rant about tiger blood to creating memes with cats.
It went viral and one thing led to another, as it often does with cats. Marciuliano’s agent thought a book would work and secretly pitched the idea to editors since Mr. M., no stranger to the black dog of depressive, ebbed in confidence in those days.
Like many comedians or writers, artists or entertainers who make a living making people laugh, Marciuliano knows the dark, underbelly of humor. The most gifted comics mine human dysfunction to its truthful core. The lucky ones avoid addiction by using humor to shield against anxiety, depression and other mental illness. It doesn’t always succeed. It takes a brilliant mind to spin light out of dark and Marciuliano is a master spinner.
Cats, it turns out were his lucky charm and they changed his life in ways he couldn’t have imagined. When his cat writing career launched in 2011, he didn’t own any cats but I Could Pee On This was dedicated to Boris and Natasha, his deceased cats. It took a long time before he was ready to adopt a cat again. When one cat dies, we’re lucky if one remains. When his remaining cat Natasha died, Marciuliano was devastated by the loss.
Relationships changed. A divorce, a new girlfriend, a break-up and a new relationship but no new cats, until last year. Leelo and Kiki, young, tuxedo sisters were adopted from a shelter in New York .They now enjoy bird TV with views of the Hudson River, act as creative muses and now that they’ve made their video debut, who knows?
Marciuliano has no plans to write another cat book.
Or dog or orangutan book for that matter. He’s pitched a few ideas to his agent and is taking time to gestate and be open to something new. If his recent soul-searching blog posts are any indication, I’m hoping its a memoir. The cat books of poems are entertaining and spot-on insightful but he feels it’s time for something meatier to chew on.
My favorite poem in I Could Pee On This Too is as acerbic as Dorothy Parker.
It’s one of the darker ones but all the poems are beautifully art directed in their little vignettes of adorable cat photos.
You make me wear
A little hat
You might as well get me
A little shirt
And little pants
And the deed to your property
Because dressing as a human
Is when the pigs in “Animal Farm”
Took control of everything
If you loved I Could Pee On This, there a lot more to love about
As always Chronicle Books publishes the most stylish and yet classic gift books.
Want to know more about Ces? Read our Q & A With Francesco Marciuliano August 2014 and Q & A in 2013 or just listen to Odin.