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The Tiger in the House: A Cultural History…

The Tiger in the House: A Cultural History of the Cat (New York Review… (edition 2007)

by Carl Van Vechten, Stephen Budiansky (Introduction)

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Title:The Tiger in the House: A Cultural History of the Cat (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:Carl Van Vechten
Other authors:Stephen Budiansky (Introduction)
Info:NYRB Classics (2007), Hardcover, 452 pages
Collections:Your library, E-books
Tags:NYRB Classics

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The Tiger in the House: A Cultural History of the Cat by Carl Van Vechten



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A wonderful compilation of all things relating to cats. In particular their history- how they have been treated by mankind throughout the ages in different cultures. The author is obviously very fond of cats and points out all their endearing traits throughout the book. Then mentions all the references he can think of from literature, art, poetry and even music that include cats. It is quite a jumble of observations and quotes, but very intriguing to read through. The chapter about ailurophobes, which describes how certain people loathed cats so much it was like a disease- they would physically suffer if one was in the room even unseen- made me wonder if this was simply a case of severe allergic reactions. The portion titled "Cats and the Occult" was rather horrific in describing all the ways cats have been tortured to death, thrown off towers, sacrificed for various reasons, their body parts ground up and skins used as cures, and one which I had never hear of and now wish I never had- the cat organ. Gah. Who ever thought such a thing was amusing? Then there are mentions of cats that lived in theaters and inspired (or hindered) the performers, cats that inspired musical compositions (some written to mimic the sound a cat makes walking across piano keys!) cats featured in poetry, and cats beloved by famed authors. There are a number of plates showing artwork and photographs of cats, but so many paintings were referenced in the book I wished to see more. And my only disappointment is that so very many quotes regarding cats were shared in French, with no translation provided. I could look up a few sayings and short poems, but entire passages nearly filling a page defeat me.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Nov 15, 2014 |
Several years ago I read a book of essays about reading, called Ex Libris, by Anne Fadiman. She mentioned this book because of its incredible vocabulary. I was intrigued from that point forward and when I happened upon it at Powell's, I had to have it.

Wow, what a lot of fun to read. It's like hearing a very opinionated great-uncle who is incredibly well-educated and well-read, and who loves cats entirely too much. Van Vechten goes through various topics in culture and literature and documents attitudes to the cat, along with a lot of judgement of his own as to how those attitudes were more or less right or wrong. He is not just an ailurophile but a Europhile as well, concentrating on French and English litterati and their attitudes about cats. Anne F. was definitely right about the vocabulary. His erudition was staggering. It didn't exactly send me running to the dictionary, as you could figure out 99% of the words from context, but it was a real joy to read something that was obviously written without any regard for readers less educated than himself. So often I think books are deliberately dumbed down. When language is complex, it is often inscrutable as well, and I get the idea the author's trying to hide the fact that he (or she) has nothing to say. Not Van Vechten! He has a lot to say. He has very firm opinions. And they are always on the side of all things feline. Cats can truly do no wrong. ( )
4 vote anna_in_pdx | Nov 28, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carl Van Vechtenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Budiansky, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"How lucky to be a cat
Free to accept or -- refuse
What is offered!"
For Edna Kenton and Feathers
First words
Whenever the subject comes up, and it may be said, speaking with moderation, that it comes up forty times a day, some one invariably declares, "No, I don't like cats, I like dogs."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159017223X, Hardcover)

“A god, a companion to sorceresses at the Witches’ Sabbath, a beast who is royal in Siam, who in Japan is called ‘the tiger that eats from the hand,’ the adored of Mohammed, Laura’s rival with Petrarch, the friend of Richelieu, the favorite of poets”—such are just a few of the feline distinctions that Carl Van Vechten records in this glorious historical overview of humanity’s long love affair with the cat. As delightful as it is learned, Tiger in the House explores science, art, and history to assemble a treasury of cat lore, while Van Vechten’s sumptuous baroque prose
makes the book’s every page an inexhaustible pleasure.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:29 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Think you know cats? Here is the domesticated feline in history, folklore, art, theater, fiction, poetry, music, the law, and even the occult. The author includes a list of more than 300 references to cats in literature, from the British Medical Journal and Darwin to Baudelaire and Mark Twain. A classic in the genre.… (more)

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