Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What's the smell? Oh, it's Mort(e)

Mort(e) is, possibly, the stupidest book I have ever read and yet when I look for links for it I find that it has been favorably reviewed. "Absorbing," says the Boston Globe and "marvelously droll," coos Slate. I am, frankly, baffled and can only assume that the reviewers judged the book by its cover, as I did when I made it an impulse buy at Elliott Bay Book Company. I liked the cover and I liked what seemed to be the premise, "cats rise up against their human 'masters' and, naturally, win the battle." I failed to realize in time that the cats (and all other animals) suddenly grow to six feet tall, or taller, and develop hands and human speech and advanced reasoning skills (like I don't know that Gradka already possesses those reasoning skills) as a result of a very scientifically minded ant who has lived for thousands of years. In short, the animals become humans. Humans with tails who have been liberated from their oppressors by a bunch of ants. And, gosh, it turns out that love is the most powerful force in the universe.

The charm of Neil Gaiman's Dream of A Thousand Cats is utterly lacking here. There's no love for or understanding of cats (or, I suspect, dogs, rats, raccoons, or bobcats, either) revealed in this book; it seems that Mr. Repino does actually live with a cat and a dog but one would not guess that from much of anything in this book--aside, possibly, from some of the slavish devotion that the prop Sheba has to her master. The plot is ludicrous, not delightfully droll. The mechanics are clunky, not "smart." It's not a take on detective stories, nor does having the animals behave like humans allow for a demonstration of the nature of humanity. It's more a demonstration of a very bad story written by a twelve-year-old boy, possibly. And yet here it is apparently selling well as a $26.95 hardback. I'm sure there will be a film deal soon because, gosh, do those giant ants and cats, dogs, and raccoons with human hands call out for CGI.

 I despair at such times, I really do


  1. There, there. Just remember that there are pieces like "My Senegalese Love Birds and Siamese Cats," and feel better. I wasn't going to read this but now I definitely won't. Thank you, cranky reader!

  2. My condolences. Frankly, I despaired over fiction so much last year, and had the same experience of wondering what on earth reviewers were thinking, and wondering how people who cannot tell an engaging story manage to make a living at it, that this year I gave up on it.

    It's a pity you read nonfiction for a living, and thus need a break, as I've been finding my nonfiction reads this year to be quite fine. And even when they are perhaps a bit less than totally engaging, at least they rarely, if ever, outright irritate me. Thank goodness.

  3. Thanks to both of you. I hadn't considered turning to Thurber; perhaps tI'll try that after cleansing my mind with Bulgakov's "Heart of a Dog." You get to my existential angst, Alex; if "Mort(e)" is considered great literature twhat does that mean for publishing in general? Fifteen percent of the books I've read in 2015 *are* nonfiction. That ain't right.

  4. On Goodreads, anyway, there are some one- and two-star reviews, amid all the raves.