The Paris Review Daily

Posts Tagged ‘animals’

The Cat Came Back

April 9, 2014 | by

The Incredible Journey Quad

Detail from the poster for Disney’s The Incredible Journey, 1963.

Yesterday, a dog raced a Metro-North train from the South Bronx into Manhattan. The train slowed down at several points so the dog, an adorable shepherd/collie mix, would not risk injury. Passengers feared for her safety during the mad dash—and cheered lustily as she was collected by two transit cops, who took her to animal control to treat her injured paw.

We love to see pets going to great lengths for our companionship, or whatever it is they’re doing. It’s hard enough to know what your dog or cat is thinking as it goes from room to room—and no one can divine the thoughts of these heroic specimens who follow their masters across continents, Incredible Journey–style. We usually choose to regard this as proof of pure devotion. But in other cases, we see these antics—especially by cats—as slightly sinister. Consider the case of “The Cat Came Back.”

Written in 1893 as a minstrel song with a very different title, “The Cat Came Back” tells of a malevolent cat who won’t stay away—until he’s killed. It’s not the sort of enlightened fare we usually associate with modern elementary education. And yet, a sanitized version of the song is a staple of nursery schools and day camps, where it’s seen as a useful tool for teaching young children about rhythm and harmony. For whatever reason, kids love the minor-key tune and the story of the grim, Mephistophelean cat.

There’s a G-rated modern version in which the owner tries to pawn the cat off on Santa Claus and an air balloon; and then there’s an earlier iteration, in which said owner clearly wants to see the feline dead. Kids laugh at both, because this cat will not be ruled by man. He defies adult authority—to say nothing of the laws of physics and geography—and this is as reassuring as it is terrifying. He “couldn’t” stay away, we are told—but not because he so loves the beleaguered Mr. Johnson, or Wilson, or whatever the owner’s name happens to be. He is a law unto himself. And the glee in telling his story has little to do with affection, and much to do with things dark and unexplained.

If no owner claims that train-loving dog, animal control is going to put her up for adoption, even though her heart is clearly wild and free and her thoughts inscrutable. But maybe for someone, that will be an adventure. Maybe they’ll like the minor key of its small mysteries. And why take on another life, if not for that?

 

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Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head

April 3, 2014 | by

NOAH

A still from Noah. Animals, ark not pictured.

Early in Darren Aronofsky’s new movie, Noah, the title character, played by Russell Crowe, comes across an antediluvian beastie, a cross between a dog and an armadillo. The beastie snarls because there’s a broken-off assegai tip in its flank, but Noah wins its trust and soothes it before it expires. Since Noah is famous as the Biblical patriarch who saved animals, a moviegoer might be forgiven for looking forward to more such scenes of human-animal interaction. Will there be an explanation about why the dogadillo didn’t make it on to the ark? Will Noah have to talk a lioness out of disemboweling an okapi on board? Will there be trilobites?

Uh, no, it turns out. Pairs of animals do stream onto Aronofsky’s ark under divine instruction, as calmly and trustingly as if Temple Grandin had designed their on-ramp, but once the creatures are in their berths, the Noah family wafts a censer of magical burning herbs, and presto, change-o—all the animals fall asleep. One of the most charismatic elements of the Noah story—in the opinion of most people under the age of six, the most charismatic element—is quietly euthanized. A stowaway descendant of Cain, looking very much like an escapee from Pirates of the Caribbean, does bite the head off of a dormant rodent and gnaw upon it with much sententious commentary, and a few implausible-looking CGI birds are deputized to scout for land, but apart from these brief episodes, the ark might as well be empty. Read More »

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The High School Literature Zodiac

November 27, 2013 | by

What does your favorite book from high school tell you about your life?

 

Tim Taranto hails from Upstate New York and attended Cornell. In addition to The Paris Review Daily, his work has appeared on the Rumpus and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Tim lives in Iowa City, where he is studying fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

 

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Seamus Heaney, 1939–2013

August 30, 2013 | by

seamusheaneylarge

“I might enjoy being an albatross, being able to glide for days and daydream for hundreds of miles along the thermals. And then being able to hang like an affliction round some people’s necks.” —Seamus Heaney, the Art of Poetry No. 75

 

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Heartless Thief Steals Books on Bikes Bicycle, and Other News

August 19, 2013 | by

Books-on-Bikeslarge

  • Shocking, shocking: a Seattle thief has stolen the Books on Bikes librarian’s bicycle. Thankfully, the trailer of books was not attached.
  • “Sixty percent of the thirty-six books recommended for four-to-eight-year-olds feature animals, or are in other ways concerned with nature. For the nine-to-twelve age group, it’s just over fifty percent.” Why are children’s books so preoccupied with fauna?
  • Casual sex: a great way to get book recommendations!
  • By contrast: an interview with the author of the best-selling The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Gave Up Sex. (This is, obviously, the English title; French people are presumably less obsessed with French women than are anglophones.)
  • Behold: the trailer for C.O.G., adapted from David Sedaris’s Naked
  • Read More »

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    Wild Things

    July 31, 2013 | by

    CASTLE - "The Final Nail" -- Castle and Beckett find themselves on opposite sides of the case when Castle's old school friend (guest star Jason Wiles) emerges as the prime suspect in his own wife's murder. As they work to solve the crime, Castle comes to realize that one of two terrible things must be true... Either Detective Beckett is about to arrest an innocent man for murder, or his old friend is a cold-blooded killer, on "Castle," MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14 (10:01-11:00 p.m. ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/MICHAEL DESMOND)NATHAN FILLION

    Somewhere between Kardashian news and a blog detailing where to buy every outfit worn by Taylor Swift I hit rock bottom. In the space between where I wanted to be—asleep—and where I was stuck—awake—I had chosen the easiest route, whiling away the ink-black night, slack-jawed and blindly clicking through whatever late-night gossip lit up the computer screen.

    The air was thick with heat on that sticky July night. No air trickled through the window screen. I was in a stupor, the particular sort of stupor that meant that nothing registered, that my reflexes were slow. I was vulnerable, mentally asleep, and regretfully awake. And I was hearing noises.

    We had just moved to the country. I was used to city life, city noises, city nerves. In the city, you steel yourself for danger, but there’s a comfort to being in a populated area, close to neighbors and cops. The bucolic loneliness of the country offers promises of peace, but to me, it’s sinister. You’re the only person screaming for miles around. Read More »

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