Friday, July 13, 2012

Bob Tarte's Animal Magnetism

Reviewed by Jeanne

As readers have noticed, I have a penchant for cat books.  I do like nonfiction at times, but when it comes to animals I tend to regard nonfiction books with suspicion. Those are the only books I routinely flip to the back and read the end before I start the book so I know if the animal in question survives or if I need to lay in an ample supply of tissues. 
That’s how I approached Kitty Cornered:How Frannie and Five Other Incorrigible Cats Seized Control of Our House and Made It Their Home by Bob Tarte.  Cats seemed okay at the end, so I decided I’d read a chapter or two.  I had a pretty good idea of where this was going by the diagram of the house (including the area where black cat Agnes makes daily attempts on Bob’s life) and the cast of characters (“Lucy:  snapping crocodile disguised as a ‘diluted tabby’”), but by the time I laughed my way through the introduction, I was sure he couldn’t sustain this level of humor.

So help me, he did.  He kept me laughing from the first chapter to the last and all the ones in between. Bob has a wonderfully semi-cynical, self-deprecating sense of humor and a keen eye for the absurd. I resisted the impulse to call friends up in the middle of the night to read passages from the book, but oh, the temptation was there.  The true reason I didn’t was that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop laughing long enough to read the passages aloud in understandable English and might be mistaken for an obscene phone caller.

But I have to say that the sentence that completely won me over and made me know that I would love this book came right after Agnes -um, "accidentally"  intersperses herself between Bob's foot and the stair:  "I pitched backward, trying to avoid her, my hand attempting to latch onto the nonexistent rail which I had been intending to have someone else install for years."

That is the story of my life.

Lest you think I was too much swayed by the feline aspect of this book, let me hasten to add that I was so amused by that first book that I checked out Tarte’s first book, Enslaved by Ducks:  How One Man Went from Head of the Household to Bottom of the Pecking Order.   This filled in a lot of background as to exactly how Bob, a non-animal person, ended up with rabbits, several varieties of ducks, geese, turkeys, a pocket parrot, doves, parakeets, and I can’t remember what all else.  He lays the blame at the feet of Linda, described as “long suffering wife to unfortunate author,” a country girl with Tennessee roots who likes having animals around. It all started out innocently enough with one bunny, Binky.  Binky was a Dutch dwarf rabbit which, as Bob found out much too late, is a breed characterized as being “moody.”  This is sort of like saying Dr. Jekyll had some personality quirks.  Binky’s favorite pastime was chewing, and while he was especially fond of electrical cords he also enjoyed books, furniture legs, carpet, shoes and electronic cables.  Just to vary his activities, he also liked to play hide and seek—inside the house walls.
You’d think Bob would have been discouraged by this, and he was.  It just didn’t stop him and Linda from accumulating a veritable zoo, primarily of birds. By the end of the book, he was even hand-raising orphan songbirds and complaining just as loudly as he did at that first bunny.  Some of these characters made appearances in Kitty Cornered   which is his most recent book.  This means I need to re-read that now that I know the origin of Ollie, Stanley Sue, et al and sort of catch up with what’s been going on with them.  However, I’m going to wait until I read Fowl Weather, his second book, so that I’m sure I know all the characters.
Whether or not you know a Muscovy duck from a call duck, you’ll be entertained by these books. My personal favorite section, though, has to be the one where their cat Moobie has to wear a cone which becomes her “Funnel of Happiness.”  I won’t tell you how.  You have to read the book, because I don’t think there is any way they could possibly make a movie—at least not one as funny as this book.

You can see photos of the cats & other characters as well as read more about Bob and his books at  He also has a lively Facebook page and Twitter account, though the latter is periodically usurped by one or more of the cats, bent on dispensing feline advice and wisdom.

"What are we looking for?"

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