Is this thing on…?
*blows away dust*
I’m reviving my neglected blog because I thought it would be a good idea to write a post summing up the projects I’ve been involved with this year, and also looking forward to what’s coming up next. Before that though, I want to say a few words about one of my favourite books of 2014: Paul Magrs’ The Story of Fester Cat.
Fester is a small black and white stray who adopts – and is adopted by – Paul and his partner Jeremy. The book is a memoir that covers the years he spends with them, told from Fester’s perspective. It flashes back to a time beforehand – when Fester skulked about with a richly-imagined crew of felines, including the fabulously ferocious (and hairy bollocked) Aunt Bessy – and continues, in some ways, into a life beyond…
I was lucky enough to read an early copy of Fester Cat. I put it on my e-reader, zoomed through it over the course of a weekend, and absolutely loved it. I cried unapologetically at the story of Fester’s garden – the den that Paul and Jeremy built together – and the image of Fester racing back to it at the end of his life. I cried again at the afterword in which Paul sums up, directly and honestly, what Fester meant to him. It’s a memoir that’s personal and funny, sad and shot through with loss. People and animals die, family and friends and work are often awkward or difficult. There are no simple solutions beyond the stories we tell ourselves, and the life we chose to try and lead.
There is a danger, I think, that a story about a pet cat could be like an anecdote about other people’s children: fascinating and touching to those that know them, but otherwise possibly a chore. This is absolutely not the case here. The Story of Fester Cat is never mawkish or manipulatively sentimental: this is not a romanticised narrative but a lively and lived-in one. It’s about the experience of knowing an animal, and how that changes you. It’s about the way you seek to understand its behaviour – the voice you imagine for it – and the way you deal with its loss. These are themes and experiences that I think lots of people understand, and relate to. More than that, this book also offers an insight into the life of two men living together in a long-term relationship, with all the pleasures and problems that entails, and I found that moving too. I’m not sure I’ve read much memoir or even fiction that touches on that and how it works. There should be more.
We are the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories we see reflected in others.
So here’s to Fester Cat and his story.