Book Review

Old Possums’s Book of Practical Cats

By Denebola
Published: March 2008

By Amy Richard

When asked to write about a book of poetry, I instantly thought of my favorite book, T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
I was initially introduced to these poems through the Broadway musical, Cats, which is based on Eliot’s collection of poems. After enjoying the melodic drama on stage, I went straight to the source.
The book begins with some practical information about the naming of cats and continues to describe how a cat has three names: an everyday family name, a particular name, and then a name that only the cat knows and will not reveal.
Eliot sarcastically illustrates the pickiness, secretiveness, and unusual habits of cats, citing specific ones with examples. My favorite is Mr. Mistoffelees because he reminds me of my own cat and all the trouble she gets into.
Mr. Mistoffelees is “The Original Conjuring Cat and gets into all sorts of trouble without anyone being the wiser. My favorite passage from this poem describes Mr. Mistoffelees’s ability to creep around anywhere and decieve his family about his whereabouts and activities.
Eliot ends his collection with a poem titled, “The Ad-dressing of Cats, which describes the peculiar nature of cats and their characters. He explains that cats are not like dogs because they need to be treated with respect and should be addressed by their names.
In a world where poetry focuses on generally serious topics, Eliot finds the humor in the daily life of cats. Through his poetry, he explores, contrary to popular opinion, the lively and often incredible lives that cats might live outside of their constant sleeping and grooming.

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