What’s in a nickname? What’s in a name? Is it all a game? Is it a little bit insane?
Can you choose your nicknames? Or are they bestowed?
Inspired by a remark by Mr. Braff on one of his Scrubs Rewatch podcast episodes, which was in reference to the series Scrubs.
Looking back, that series really was a timeless gem of slapstick comedy. It could also slap you right in the feels.
I guess the character of JD really resonated with a lot of people, although I was always more of a Kelso kind of guy. That’s the only reason I do this – to hear you tell me the sweetest bit of bullshit.
Anyway, what’s a fun nickname you wished people would call you?
Can you choose your nicknames? Or are they bestowed?
I wonder if cats have nicknames for us. Probably Poopoohead.
Then I realized what I needed to do in the time left to me. I needed to write you a letter. I needed to write about all the things I’d never told you these past years.
Another quaint little book, another book with a picture of a cat on the cover.
Perhaps this is a trend of mine, although I fear I may run out of relevant material all too soon, short of reading children’s books and lolcats albums.
That makes me think of another trend – the growing pet trend, at least in many parts of Asia. Especially exotic pets.
Is an increase in pet ownership a sign that a community is maturing or growing in wealth? Or quite the opposite? Pets present a lot less complications than human offspring, and maybe cost a little less (even if just from a shelf life comparison). Also pets appear to be less problematic, less anxiety and stress inducing, a modern solution to a modern problem – companionship and loneliness in the 21st century.
As Homer put simply: “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back.”
Therein lies part of the beauty of pets, I suppose. As much as we draw comics and write books and make movies about talking animals, I’m fairly certain if they could it would ruin it for a lot of us. Unless all they did was baby talk all day long. That would definitely ruin it for some of us.
If Cats Disappeared From The World is an intriguing book, to say the least. It is actually not all about cats disappearing from existence, not a methodical what-if breakdown of the break down of ecosystems and world orders should the feline family one day fly off the face of the earth.
This quaint little novel is about relationships – not just relations between humans and animals, but also between humans and everyday objects and the meaning we derive from abstract concepts and our own mortality.
The book follows a young male protagonist who works as a postman, with no great aspirations and no major achievements and no latent superpowers stashed away in his bloodline that only activates when the moon is full. He lives alone and owns a cat. Keeps to himself for the most part. As common a person as can be. Highly relatable, I’m sure.
And the protagonist finds out he only has an extremely short time left to live.
Don’t worry, that isn’t a spoiler – it’s in the introduction.
If you were in the protagonist’s shoes, what would you do?
Write up a bucket list? Make amends with all those you felt you’ve wronged? Party like there is literally no tomorrow?
Well, what if there was a way you could extend your life?
But of course, there is a cost.
What would you sacrifice in order to extend your own life?
In a humourous and mostly light-hearted journey of discovery and enlightenment, the protagonist (it’s not that I don’t remember your name, bruh, but you were narrating in the first person the whole time) rekindles old passions and explores old places and memories from his rather limited sphere of influence and truncated lifespan.
And I mean limited. Let’s go through the cast, shall we?
His imaginary friend, Aloha
His cat, Cabbage Oh boy, we’re off to a superb start!
His somewhat less imaginary friend, Tsutaya
This is also in order of interaction levels. And his parents only appear in flashbacks, so technically zero interaction there.
Yes, that’s right – the protagonist is a postman with a powerful pseudo-pal and a pet and not much else. He’s pretty much Nobita with a more useless version of Doraemon, in other words an actual cat with no pockets. It would be easy to pity him.
He is Walter Mitty but without any rad skateboarding skills or a remotely interesting vocation (you have to admit Mr. Mitty actually had a really unique job). Mind you, I’m not saying being a postman is dull or useless, but this character shows no passion for anything he does. It’s more than mildly frustrating.
And yet somehow the thoughts and memories that his brief journey manages to evoke hit close to home. As unrelatable of a character as he is, his awakening and his experiences upon learning he has little time to live draw out a rich tapestry of emotions and primal yearning that you can’t help but feel that tug, that little tug inside.
He unearths old hobbies and old flames (well, I use plural but they’re all singular) – he visits an old friend and his ex. Yes, he voluntarily goes to meet her in person. That’s always a roller coaster ride. Brave move though.
Brave as it may be, his interactions with fellow human beings end up being rather awkward and ungainly. He talks more naturally with his vanishing friend Aloha and of course his trusty pet cat, Cabbage. An amazing pet name, I might add. Their previous cat was named Lettuce.
And despite that, by the end of it all, you end up feeling a sense of camaraderie and admiration for the protagonist for the courageous decisions and choices he has made in the face of his frailty and impending demise.
If a book can provoke deep, meaningful thoughts, then I’d say it’s a profound book. If a book can make you feel real feelings, then I’d say it’s a well written book. If it can do both, then I’d say it’s a pretty darn decent book.
If Cats Disappeared From The World does both those things, and a little more. Although it may be somewhat soppy or a little preachy at times, there doesn’t appear to be too much lost in translation. My hat goes off to whoever translated this little chronicle – the wry humour still shines through.
It’s not a romance novel, but it’s a love story.
A story of love between a boy and the diminutive one-dimensional world that he lives in. A story of time squandered, communication breakdowns, and of love lost. Love for things both big and small, but mostly small. Still, love strong enough to sacrifice for.
So I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter how far or wide or deeply you loved. It doesn’t matter if you loved and lost, or got lost in love, or if your life is full of regrets. As long as you know that you loved and were loved in return, you have something special – a connection with another living being.
Knowing that you have experienced love and are capable of loving – that makes it worth all the while. And if you still have time left, while you still have breath, keep on loving.
As you go on with your life, always remember the things that are good in you. They’re your gifts. As long as you have these things, you’ll find happiness, and you’ll make the people around you happy…I hope you always keep hold of these things that are so beautiful about you.
It’s been a while since I read a book from cover to cover, and I have to admit this one kept me hooked to the pages, always wanting more, even at the very end.
Considering that it is but a simple tale of an equanimous and plucky puss with his master, you would scoff at how riveted I was to this story. I must confess everything about this book resonated deeply with me, being a cat lover myself. Yes, I said it – I’m an ailurophile.
It’s not that I dislike dogs and other popular pet animals; it’s just that cats and me, we just tend to be on the same wavelength. Oh, and cats are simply super adorable, so that helps.
But back to the book at hand.
When I use the word simple, I mean it in the purest and most literal sense – the translated writing is an unassuming, uncomplicated prose that draws the reader in and takes us on a road trip through a magical land.
Except there is no magic involved, at least not the high fantasy, otherworldly and vividly colourful type magic. But the story definitely binds you with a spell.
In gentle words and soft treads belonging to a cat lover, Ms. Arikawa navigates the idyllic cities and countrysides of Japan through the eyes of the protagonist – a stray cat named Nana.
Yes, you read that correctly. The cat is a male. Named Nana. Yes, like what you would call your granny. Maybe you should go call her now, it’s been a while.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles starts off like any other romance novel – cat meets boy, boy likes cat, love ensues, and they lived happily ever after, dancing away into the sunset. Don’t worry, no spoiler alert necessary, I’m being a little facetious here in case you didn’t notice. But I’m not pulling your leg when I say this is a love story. A simple love story between a cat and a man, and their travels around the world.
The calm pace of the story, the tranquil descriptions of the world they occupy, the interaction of humans and pets and nature – and there is hint of something more. Surely there must be something underneath it all?
I must say though, Nana’s owner, Mr. Satoru, is clearly one of those guys that only exist in fiction, those too-good-to-be-true, heart-of-pure-gold type characters. Calm and conscientious, providing pure, unadulterated love and care for his one and only cat. Sure, he does show hint of a tiny flaw here and there, but really the truly relatable character is the cat.
And I must say, the author really pinned a cat’s thoughts and behaviour down to a hair! Everything Nana says (or at least thinks or expresses in cat language) and does is precisely something an actual cat would do, with motives not altogether far-fetched from an actual feisty feline.
Nana is the entertainer, the comic relief, the one who says what he thinks and does what he wants. The snake, the charmer, the genie – all in one. His wish is his command.
Now although I use words like ‘simple’ and ‘tranquil’ and ‘discombobulate’, this story is by no means without heart and emotion. All the characters are grounded and face real-world problems with believable backstories. All have suffered in some way, such that it would be impossible for readers not to relate to the characters on some level. And when you think everything is hunky-dory, the peaceful plot bats you off the ledge with a left hook you thought you saw coming but it’s too late you’re sobbing through your black eye and now you realise you want a cat so bad.
I’m kidding – it’s certainly not a heavy book, no War and Peace, no Grapes of Wrath, and definitely no crying involved. At least not by the reader.
All this because of a cat.
To say I was deeply touched by this book would be like saying Disney made some nice cartoons. I went into it thinking it would be a mildly droll tale, and then bam! Curiosity killed the cat. Not literally, of course. No animals, fictional or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this review. And the original story. I think. Oh wait, there was that accident.
This book didn’t just make me reminisce my cat or dream about travelling to Japan, it made me marvel at how our sweetest little companions can bring people together, can make worlds collide or come crashing down, and how sad it would be for someone to have never known the pure, unconditional love that an animal can give.
I daresay this love story could rival any of those top romance dramas out there, as the love a human has for their pet can rival and outshine the love one feels for another human being.
Perhaps I’m being melodramatic, or perhaps you simply haven’t known the true extent and depth with which a human can love and bond and care for his or her soul animal, loyal companion and unwavering friend, and how said animal can return that love.
But animals cannot possibly fathom the depth or intricacies of love that we humans experience, you might say.
I know not what deep or profound love it is you speak of, except that of two souls travelling together through life in harmony, caring for each other despite their differences. A simple bond, a simple love. What more do you want? What more do you need?
Cats recite the poetry of nature, dogs sing the songs of the earth and sky, and do I sound like furry now or what?
You know, I’ve never been certain what this whole furry movement is about, but I damn sure ain’t talking about that kind of animal love, mmkay?
All this because of a cat.
Anyway, kudos if you got this far. My review has almost turned into a bit of tale itself. If you like pets and animals, go read the book. If you don’t, then…go read the book and you might find you’re missing out on something.