I just finished I Am a Cat, by Soseki Natsume, and though there were some parts I felt would never come around to a close, when I finished it I was smiling! This book follows the ruminations of a teacher’s cat – a rather useless, lazy, but intelligent, unnamed creature. The cat weaves a slow, but interesting story of his master and friends, a group of very eccentric beings in Japan during the Meiji era. Interspersed quite liberally are the cat’s own philosophical outlooks on humanity in general and the people he watches in particular.
There are quite a few smaller sections of very cat-like actions and adventures, which I found particularly fun and interesting. I sometimes wished that these would make up a bit more of the book – but really, that wasn’t the point, so I was left only a bit unsatisfied. He also mentions contemporary authors and art styles to both poke fun at and talk about as this cat personality. There are quite a few sections of comparing the philosophical ideals and differences between Japanese and European/Western cultures of the time. All this adds up to quite an enjoyable and witty read, though I will admit that at times it was a bit slow.
A really fascinating aspect of this book was Soseki’s ability to show us more, and have us understand more, than even his narrator (the cat) does. I find this literary technique to be quite difficult to pull of and really masterful. Basically, the cat is an unreliable narrator in a sense. The cat has his own views, but Soseki has him narrate it in a way that allows the reader to formulate and understand information outside of what the cat knows or decides. Soseki does this in a very subtle and natural way, which makes the book even more fun, and often even more humorous.
I’ll close this small post with a quote I found most hilarious. Waverhouse, a fun-loving, joke-playing friend, says this about marriage and trying to find a partner, either on your own or with help from friends (he’s a confirmed bachelor by the way).
“After all, marriage is little more than two people bumping against each other in the dark. If they cannot manage such bumping by themselves, other people contrive their blind collision. It doesn’t matter who bumps whom.” – page 438.