Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ode to a nameless cat, take two.

A couple weeks back I picked up the novel A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami. Guy's been on the short list for the Nobel Prize in Literature the past couple years, but the real draw was the descriptors used most often by reviewers: "verbal anarchy," "screwball," "wicked and loopy." I thought I should at least give him a try. I just finished the book and it seems to be an off-the-wall allegory for post-WWII Japan and its relationship with the West. Mighty odd, as advertised. I'm not sure I'll read more by him, but I really bonded with the author during the scene in which the hero heads out on his quest and is arranging for someone to take care of his nameless cat:

He'd been a fine young tom the day my wife found him under a park bench and brought him home, but in the last few years he'd rapidly gone downhill. Like a bowling ball rolling toward the gutter. Also, he didn't have a name. I had no idea whether not having a name reduced or contributed to the cat's tragedy.

"Nice kitty-kitty," said the chauffeur, hand not outstretched. "What's his name?"

"He doesn't have a name."

"So what do you call the fella?"

"I don't call it," I said. "It's just there."

"But he's not a lump just sitting there. He moves about by this own will, no? Seems mighty strange that something that moves by its own will doesn't have a name."

"Herring swim around of their own will, but nobody gives them names."

"Well, first of all, there's no emotional bond between herring and people, and besides, they wouldn't know their name if they heard it."

"Which is to say that animals that not only move by their own will and share feelings with people but also possess sight and hearing qualify as deserving of names then?"

"There, you got it." The chauffeur nodded repeatedly, satisfied. "How about it? What say I go ahead and give the little guy a name?"

"Don't mind in the least. But what name?"

"How about 'Kipper'? I mean you were treating him like a herring after all."

"Not bad, " I said.

"You see?" said the chauffeur.

"What do you think?" I asked my girlfriend.

"Not bad," she said. "It's like being witness to the creation of heaven and earth."

"Let there be Kipper," I said.

"C'mere, Kipper," said the chauffeur, picking up the cat. The cat got frightened, bit the chauffeur's thumb, then farted.

This Nobel-caliber author has said what I could not on the topic of nameless pets, and I hope that the world will cease persecuting me. I love my cat more than a whole barrel of herring, but she doesn't care whether I call her "kitty" or "Kipper" or "Tarzan." She just wants a full food dish and some ankles to chase. Plus, if I give her a real name, it would be so much harder to eat her.


Rachel said...

Such a witty blogger you are.

Anonymous said...

I read "Wind Up Bird Chronicles" also by Murakami and the cat's name in there is "Noboru Wataya" after the main character's brother-in-law. You could do that... -- Hsin (aka too lazy to start an account so I'll just be anonymous for now).

Marie said...

Thanks, Rachel!

As to the cat naming, I wonder if it's an insult to name pets after live people in Japan like it is in Latino cultures?

In that case, I should name the cat Rumsy.