Author Archives: Stephanie Suh

About Stephanie Suh

I write stuff of my interest that does not interest anyone in my blog. No grammarians, no copy editors, no marketers, no cynics are welcome.

‘Writers and Their Cats’ by Alison Nastasi – review

Writers and Their Cats: (Gifts for Writers, Books for Writers, Books about Cats, Cat-Themed Gifts)Writers and Their Cats: by Alison Nastasi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If dogs are man’s best friends with their childlike artlessness and uninhibited affection, what are cats? Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, answered thus: “Cats are so nice and selfish.” Writers and Their Cats by Alison Nastasi is a delightful illustration of such a relationship between writers and their cats with peek-a-boo glimpses of the celebrity authors’ unknown personal aspects behind the public façade.

The fascination with the graceful demeanor and graceful capriciousness of cats is particularly intense among the volatile and imaginative writers as the muse of their lettered labyrinths. Edgar Allan Poe wished he could write as mysteriously good as his cat Catarina who liked to hover herself over Poe’s shoulders while he was writing. Mark Twain, whom I used to associate with something of a Dog Father, turns out to be a godfather of cats who rented cats to city dwellers during their holidays in the countryside. Twain also named his cats commensurate with his wicked sense of humor: Satan, Soapy Sal, Lazy, etc. Furthermore, Twain proclaimed that anyone who likes a cat is his friend. The imposing figure of rough and tough Ernest Hemingway may not match the delicate silhouettes of cats’ sophisticated society. Still, Papa Hemingway loved them with the tenderness he rarely showed even to his better halves.

The book also introduces readers to various writers of our digital era whose love of cats takes them to the world outside their comfort zones in selective solitude. Patricia Highsmith, a high-strung, highly opinionated, no-nonsense author of The Talented Mr. Ripley, reveals her Tate-a-Tate moments by greeting her cat, “We are going to have a great day today.” Marion James, who wrote A Brief History of Seven Killings, met Tom the Cat at a café in Brooklyn, New York, who, like the writer, enjoyed being outside among people because both of them thrived on the liveliness of the world around them as a creative force. Then Peeti Shency, the Indian novelist and artist, writes about the experience of sharing a terrific story about her trip to the Kedar-Gouri Temple dedicated to the eponymous goddess with a particular fondness of cats, thus elevating them to the divine status of the immortals. Shency resurrects the legends of holy cats in the temple to our digitalized reality of the world and connects them to our need for their presence for nature’s mysteriousness.

There are many other writers in the book whose love for their cats are touching. They all confess to their odes to cats that only cats can understand what they are and who they are. Whether or not cats have a supernatural sense of reading people’s minds, I have no intelligence. Still, I do know that a cat is good at observing your movement and facial expression from my observation of Toro, a 12-week old male brown tabby kitten, who likes to watch me what I am doing and where I am going. A cat is a curiously interesting beast, and it is this semblance of intelligence that makes a cat so attractive to the imaginative, high-strung writers. If you have a cat at home and a writer at heart, this book will present you with a delightful treat to your mind, packed full of beautiful pictures of writers and their cats not in grim portraiture but natural snapshots. Readers may tempt to show the writers’ photos with their cats to your cats.

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Let Children out of Politics.

There has been a vortex of fiery opinions on the controversial Netflix film “Cuties,” directed by French Senegalese Maimouna Maimouna Doucoure as her debut feature. I first heard of the movie while checking on Twitter feed filled with vehement subjective narratives divided -yet again-by the in-vogue trend of racially charged political views, which seems to blur the ambit of art for art’s sake appealing to the universal audience. But the unified viewpoint on the provocative representation of sexualized pre-adolescent girls weighs against the film’s thematic slogan of liberation from oppression, come what may.

The movie has gained a cult status among self-professed progressive keyboard warriors, defenders of social inequality, when in fact, they are seldom in contact with the people they speak for or even get together in their daily lives. That said, the movie has become something of a visual manifesto of social activism, rather than a joy of cinematic experience that bestows a sensory pleasure and mental piquancy on viewers. No pornification and the misguided display of sexual oppression in children’s figures can be sublimated into art. Children are not a medium of political efficacy or a vehicle of personal ambition. The sexualization of children imitating adult acts is counter-productive in translating onto screen per se the socially disfranchised class consciousness in a highly secular society where the income level defines individuals’ worth. Little girls in skimpy attires, gyrating and eyeing in a way that makes them the cult of Ishtar at a Babylonian temple where girls offer their bodies to strange men for holy prostitution. Or shall I say it is a revisionist adaption of “Pretty Baby” or “Lolita” directed by a black woman whose directorial debut is undoubtedly impressive and provocative in the BLM wake?

It amazes me to see people think themselves rational and reasonable when they are just self-professed egoists illustrated with their ostentatiously abstract view of social reality that seems to be out of touch with their own class. They regard “Cuties” as telltale cinematic radical feminism and socialism with a view to liberation by the parody of the reality. However, these intellectuals oversee or willfully ignore the truth about human nature: physical, rather than metaphysical; it is tactile rather than theoretical. Our faculty of mind is affected by the works of the senses and of the imaginations. To this effect, ‘Cuties” will adversely affect people’s judgment when their eyes direct toward the visual feast of perverted pleasure because the impulse, when arisen by stimuli, defeats Ego, voids the Superego, and commandeers false promise of liberation with rapacious sensuality.

Pets are not of a fad but for life.

I read the Guardian article “A dog is for life, not Just lockdown” by Donna Ferguson (September 13, 2020 issue) with intimately acquainted feeling shared by our understanding of pets as family members with care, not as luxurious commodities treated with whims and caprice. Her search for a Poochon puppy for her daughter reminds me of my own story of the recent adoption of a tabby kitten from a shelter.

As I was going to move into a pet-friendly apartment, I was excited to bring a dog into my new home to share companionship. However, during my search for a canine company, I became aware of the ugly reality of “pet business” intent on swindling and ripping off naïve would-be pet owners. Ferguson’s experience of encountering sellers of puppies suspected of scamming or deceiving chimed the bell of my experience in which a dubious welsh corgi breeder insisted on “shipping out” a puppy to me in the convenient pretext of Covid-19 protocol. Even legitimate ones are not exempt from my continued disappointment: Shiba breeders in Southern California had their waiting lists closed. One pet shop owner on the phone revealed to me that since the outbreak of the Covid-19 and California state made it difficult to sell and buy a pet at a pet shop. Hence the supply and demand for pets have become disproportionately unbalanced, skyrocketing the price of dogs immensely. Worse, the procedure of adopting dogs from shelters makes it excessively challenging and disheartening for bona fide would-be owners disappointed with the requirements of a near-perfection environment for dogs.

Maybe all the disappointments and disillusion of having a dog meant to lead me to the world of cats because now I have a 12-week old brown male tabby named “Toro,” a masculine form of Tora, meaning in a little tiger in Japanese. I brought him from Ventura Animal Services three weeks ago. He is a smart, capricious kitten charged with a sudden pop of energy to stalk and play with the toy rat and anything moving from the frills of my skirts to dangling straps of my iPhone cover. Watching Toro peacefully cuddle up on my laps or my desk when I read or write, I can’t agree more with Ferguson that our cat and dog are not for our pandemic solace but our wish to share our homes with the lovely creatures.

I say Meow.

I am a dog person. I like their playful innocence and adorable artlessness. And I still believe all dogs go to heaven because of their innate goodness that brings joy to our overtly complexed human life. Also, dogs and humans have been living together for about 15,000 years as family members. Remember Argos, the loyal dog of Odyssey, who was the only one who recognized his old master in rags and tatters? Also, there were the dogs who saved the lives of soldiers during historical manmade wars in the expanse of their own lives. So, if the circumstances give me the green light, I would love to have a dog at home. Who wouldn’t anyway?


Then, given the express affection toward the canine race, how could my living with a cat be explained? The truth is still a mystery as  I still can’t believe I have Toro, an 11-week old male tabby I adopted from a shelter two weeks ago, at home with me all the time except when I am at work. Toro, which is a masculine form of ‘Tora”, meaning a tiger in Japanese, is a curious paradox of a beast; he is a little cutie with lovely big green eyes but shows all the characteristics of a predator just like his wild cousins. Toro shows he will grow into a formidable hunter contrary to his small and thin body with acute audibility and olfaction. Watching Toro playing with toys and the frills at the bottom of my skirts fluttering underneath the chairs, I wonder if Toro will turn out to be a Gremlin one day when I wake up in the morning. But his cuteness dominates fear, and he likes to sit on my laps when he feels like it. Toro seems to have crafted Ovid’s the Art of Love with innately feline caprice and whims turning it into an irresistible magic spell. What a kitty.

Toro and I moved from the pastoral Ventura County to the heart of Los Angeles during the inferno heatwave of the labor weekend. We both suffered a sense of vertigo in new urban surroundings and a little bit quizzical about how we should adopt to smaller spaces in an apartment. Maybe Toro doesn’t like our new den because he does not wake me up by climbing on my back and meowing in the morning any longer. Besides, he seems to suddenly develop attention deficiency by frequently stalking, jumping, scratching, and biting. Worse still, Toro hissed a lot and aloud for the last two days. Although I force myself to think that it’s due to the diabolical heatwave, I cannot stitch up a little hole in my heart to the immaculate condition.

Freud said the time spent with cats is never wasted. I want to believe it even if these days I spend most of the time tending Toro, instead of reading and writing. Certainly, unconditional love toward a living thing is noble and esteemed. Yet the Bard sums my state of mind thus: “Love sought is good but love unsought is better.” Still, there is a long way ahead of us to live according to the natures of our different species. Our inclinations are contralateral as our needs are egotistical for our own ends of the survival of the species. If so, then let it be – with pleasure.

Maybe, I am more feline than my kitten. Who knows? Meow.