One of my favorites being the exceedingly eccentric, Edward Gorey. I have a book of interviews with him called Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey, and one of my favorites is the interview by Cat Magazine just two short months before I was born on May 1978. Today I leave you with a portion of that interview.
"I got my first cat when I was about seven. Apart from when I was at Harvard and in the Army, I've always had cats, all of them short hairs. I can't conceive of life without cats. I don't believe I've ever forgotten any cat I had, even if circumstances conspired that I only had it for a short time. On the other hand, I don't have too many specific memories of people who are no longer around either."
"For years, I used to try to keep their number down to three, because of my one-room apartment. But then, as one does, I knew other people with cats. You find a cat on the street and try to foist it off on somebody else. My various blackmailing ventures like that have come home to roost. People will call me and say, 'Listen, we don't like to bother you, but we've got this cat. And if you don't take it, we're going to put it in the oven.' So, thought I live on the same street as Bide-a-Wee, I've never had cause to stop in. And Following more than one of these ventures, I ended up with six."
"Between three and four, before I took in the fifth, didn't seem much difference. Between four and five didn't seem much difference. Strangely enough, between five and six I suddenly felt it's not just six cats, it's six cats making up a kind of phalanx. Not that the six banded together. To the contrary, there were all sorts of internecine relationships. But somehow six cats seem a lot more, disproportionately more, than five."
"I name them whatever strikes me at the time. The name usually turn out to be wildly unsuitable. For example, Agrippina couldn't be less like the original (wife of emperor Claudius; Nero's mother). Most of their names are from The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki. At present I feel Genji is inexhaustible, though obviously when the name is hard to pronounce, un-Japanese nicknames creep in. The cats all have about six nicknames."
"The Abyssinian, going on seventeen, was given to me by friends who had her mother, a perplexing cat, quite indescribable. She was very pretty. Who has ever seen and Abyssinian who wasn't? But she seemed to have absolutely no character. She wasn't shy, she wasn't outgoing, she wasn't withdrawn, she wasn't happy, she wasn't sad, she wasn't anything- she was just there. When they offered me a kitten I said, 'Oh, I'm not sure.' They realized exactly what I was intimating. 'Oh listen,' they said, 'we'll give you the kitten that has personality.' And indeed she does. She's diminutive. She's all personality and crazed charm. She's spent her whole life torn between being incredibly shy and incredibly friendly. You can watch her go into paroxysms of 'Shall I run up the bookcase and disappear; or shall i come over and talk to somebody?' She learned to purr when she was ten years old. She was always affectionate with me, but her purring was delayed. Now of course she never stops and she's become more friendly than she used to be."
"The most intelligent cat I've ever had was twelve in August. Kanzuke is a brilliant cat, very friendly and emotionally distressed. when worked up, he bites and scratches. He feuds with one of his sisters."
"The house my cousins and I have at the Cape is at the head of a marina, where Koko had been living on boats. She has one black-ribbed eye, and one orange-ribbed eye. She is very sweet and she purrs a lot, but totally brainless as far as I can gather. She's never shown the slightest sign of intelligence. She's very domestic looking and enormous."
"To No Chun is a pale ginger car, very long, very thin and bony. This one I felt sorry for at the vet's one day, and adopted. My vet always has a cage on display. I was talking to him about the ginger cat, without any intention of taking it. Then the vet said, 'Anybody who takes that cat ha better see beforehand how badly crippled it is.' 'Oooh, poor little thing, what is the matter with him? I'll take him. I'll take him,' I said, figuring nobody else would. he'd fallen or been pushed off a terrace. His back leg had been broken and twisted so that when sitting up one back leg would stick out. He has worn off all the fur off the back of it because of the odd way he has to sit down. He'd been inside the cage for a couple of days already. When they dumped him out, he slithered along the floor. I thought 'Oh my God, What have I done? My other cats will kill him because he's not agile and fast like the others.' I took him home anyway, expecting he wouldn't be able to get up on anything. Well he's a perfect demon. I think what he did was- he didn't fall off the terrace, he probably sailed off it, in a great fit of euphoria. He wants to sit on my shoulder all the time. he flings himself up. I'm glad I took him in because he's a sweet cat and a peacemaker, compatible with the other four."
"If you have just one cat, it tends to fade when the owner is not around. But among several cats- though mine seem to seep a great deal of the day too- there is a complex of relationships going on. One cat will allow the other cats to sleep up against it. There's also a pecking order, which is funny to watch. Kanzuke has ruled the house for years and years, although a couple of the lady cats will occasionally assert themselves. Agrippina is bullied by everybody, but once a year she runs amok- 'I'm not having any more of this'- and sets to skirmishing with everybody, a situation lasting about a week. Kanzuke tries to bully Stubbs, but Stubbs will have nothing to do with it. he lays his ears back and shuts his eyes, sitting still as a statue, which nonplusses Kanzuke. They're actually fond of each other. Koko is basically indifferent to the others, but amiable. Stubbs and Maude like each other quite well. Agrippina makes friends, but she is sometimes pushed from the food dish, poor dear."
"Days when I'm at home they may pay me no attention at all. Which is better than the days when they decided they all want to sit on the drawing-board, no matter what I'm doing. Sometimes there is the full complement of five of them draped on the drawing-board, and there used to be six. They slither to the center and put their claws out to attract my notice."
"None of my cats go out-of-doors at all, even at the Cape. In Murray Hill, it's not ledge nonsense for me- I'm far too neurotic about it. Though they have their times for looking out the windows, the cats don't seem to do it excessively, or enough to make me feel guilty they are in one room. Indoor cats don't lose their wildness, which is one of the reasons I am so fascinated by them. They seem to retain all their jungly qualities no matter what."
Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey, Interviews selected and edited by Karen Wilkin.
Published by Harcourt Books, 2001
Published by Harcourt Books, 2001