Sammy's Shelf February 2012: Behind every great writer there's a cat? Of course!
Although P. I. Maltbie's Bambino and Mr. Twain (Charlesbridge. 9781580892728) is a fairly innocuous children's picture book with some decent illustrations by Daniel Miyares, it attracted me because unwittingly the author raises the issue of the role cats play in the creative process.
Ostensibly, this story is based on a true event. Bambino was Samuel Clemens's oldest daughter's cat originally but he moved in with the author when Clara had to seek treatment in a clinic after her mother's death.
Twain was also quite distraught by his wife's passing and this picture book tells how Bambino supposedly helped bring the writer out of the doldrums. Part of the story, which can be documented, deals with Bambino's mysterious disappearance and then his reappearance. Mr. Clemens actually placed newspaper ads offering $5 to anyone who could return the wayward feline. Apparently, Bambino returned on his own!
Now if you do a little research, you'll discover that this famous writer had several cats and not just this black kitty that has been immortalized in this touching tale. If you check online at TwainQuotes.com and look under "C" for cats, you'll see Mark Twain (that's his pen name) worked cats into his literature and had some interesting things to say about us.
Not only did this accomplished author recognize our sterling traits and the personality traits we exhibited that set us apart from other creatures, but he often suggested, I think, that we were the crème de la crème of the four-legged set and even exhibited qualities that those who venture forth on two legs might envy!
Now, that being said, it is purr-fectly clear to me that his feline companions offered more than just companionship to Mr. Clemens. I believe that these kitties subtly influenced some of his major works and were responsible for the attitude that we find in such characters as Huck Finn and Roxy.
And how do you explain the not-so-subtle attitude that emerges in later works that Twain wrote like The Mysterious Stranger and Letters from the Earth? I think hanging around with cats had something to do with it!
As you'll see when you read Bambino and Mr. Twain, the author's feline buddy played billiards with him and spent a lot of quality time on Twain's bed with him! Now don't tell me that doesn't suggest a special relationship that paid literary dividends for Samuel Clemens!
Also, not to belabor the point, but if you do a little scratching in the literary litter box, you'll discover that T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, William S. Burroughs and Raymond Chandler, to name just a few, were all famous scribblers who were feline fanciers as well. Now, isn't that interesting? Meow! Sammy shares living quarters with Bob Walch. Not only does Bob provide the basic essentials for this loquacious feline but he occasionally offers editorial assistance. Find more of the Maine Coon's musings at CoastTraveler.com.
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