Rich Stoehr's Reviews > The Meowmorphosis

The Meowmorphosis by Coleridge Cook
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Apr 07, 11

bookshelves: amazon-vine
Read from March 30 to April 06, 2011

The Meowmorphosis is certainly an oddity. And in the mashup genre - home to books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Android Karenina - that's saying something.

I have to admit that I've never read Kafka's original Metamorphosis, so I can't compare the merits of the Quirk Classics version against the original. What I can say is that if The Meowmorphosis is any indication of the tenor of the original work, reading it gave me no desire to read the source material.

It took some effort to make it through Meowmorphosis, but there are saving graces too, that almost make the effort worth it. There are pages filled with ponderous dialogue and meandering descriptions. There are details about the drudgery of Gregor Samsa's former life and his ungrateful family. There is a trial, held by cats, in which it seems like nothing is really decided.

But there are also clever, funny moments sprinkled in. It was the touches of the ridiculous that kept me going, usually in the form of descriptions of Gregor's new feline awareness, having woken from "anxious dreams" to discover that he had transformed overnight into a rapidly-growing kitten and rediscovering the world.

For example, the passage about Gregor's new needs when leaving one room for another: "He would never have allowed the elaborate preparations that Gregor required to consider the door, consider himself, groom his whiskers, rub his cheeks against the jamb, further consider the natures of both doors and salesmen, and finally sniff at the air of his room, to see if it offered suitable napping opportunities, and thus perhaps, at the end of it all, get through the door."

Or this, which pokes sly fun at the source material itself: "I took you for and educated tom, sir, in which case you would have read your German classics and would be quite accustomed to a narrator who only loves to hear himself speak - you must admit I speak very well, with many masculine and robust subclauses, romantic dashes, and surprising punctuation - and forgets what the purpose of telling the story was in the first place something like two-thirds of the way through. This is considered traditional!"

There are a few of these moments of literary humor throughout The Meowmorphosis, but not quite enough to make it enjoyable. The heavy-handed symbolism of the original, turned on its head here but still symbolism nonetheless, weighs the story down and even the attempts to be light aren't quite enough.

Perhaps, fittingly, one last quote to conclude. This passage sums up my feelings on The Meowmorphosis well: "I suppose my little incident is symbolic...Nothing else. Symbolism is depressing; its meaning is always deferred. Nothing is what it is, only what it means, and I mean nothing but that the world is ugly and men are uglier still."

The Meowmorphosis isn't an ugly book, but it's a book unsure of its own identity - parody or homage? Symbol or story? Even in fun, it's a lot of effort for only a little reward.
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03/31/2011 page 70
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