Gentle and Fierce is a new book of illustrated memoir essays by Vanessa Berry. 

Animal Chronicle I / Cat Catalog

I kept the notes for Animal Chronicle in a spiral notebook that had the pages inside divided up into exactly 1000 squares. It was intended to enact a dream-fulfillment exercise, according to the instructions on the first page, which said Dans mille jours, votre rêve se réalisera (in a thousand days your dream will come true). I decided instead to use it to record everyday encounters with animals. They quickly accumulated, stories of pantry moths and birds and snails and cats, observations and news stories and conversations. This could be a whole book in itself, I thought, at one point, before restraining myself to choosing fifteen for the Chronicle.

During the time I was recording the daily encounters, I bought a book called Cat Catalog: The Ultimate Cat Book, from the Salvos. It is exactly the kind of op-shop book that tempts me, for I love a compendium and I also love cats. It's usually fifty-fifty whether I will resist such a book and put it back on the shelf, or give in. How could I resist the dazzling array of topics? An essay on 'Cats and Yarn',  Dava Sobel on cat nutrition, 'Lore and Legends of the Cat by Lily Groover Jackson', and an entire Cats in Literature section, which ends with a quiz. Questions 3, for example, is:

Who said to some cats that had happened to leap upon a knight's nose, 'Avaunt malignant enchanters! Avaunt ye witchcraft working rabble!?

a. Eleanor Roosevelt

b. Alice in Wonderland

c. King Lear

d. Don Quixote

Here is a bonus question:
Which anecdote from Cat Catalog appears in Gentle and Fierce?

a. In 1888 thousands of cat mummies were exhumed from a site in Egypt and ended up as fertiliser in England.

b. In 1968 the US Army began experimenting with seeing-eye cats which, harnessed, would lead soldiers by night through jungles in Vietnam.

c. Cat's eyes have a special layer of cells that act like a mirror, reflecting light back into the eye, an effect known as 'eyeshine'.

d. Carolee Schneemann's film Kitch's Last Meal is a 5-hour 'domestic epic' that celebrates life with her grey Maltese, Kitch.

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