"The Cat's Pajamas" by Ray Bradbury (from his collection The Cat's Pajamas, 2004)
I've mentioned before that I can only take Ray Bradbiry's stories in small doses. They tand to be overblown, maudlin, and sometimes plotless, relying on emotion and (oftimes) on an allegiance to a past that may have never been. Although some of his stories can be dark -- almost grand guiignol in nature -- Ray Bradbury remains the poet laureate of sunshine, rainbows, and -- if not lollipops -- at least of dandelion wine. His stories are slight -- any depth to them can often be found only within the reader himself, or herself.
But they work, And they work well in ways that I cannot explain. I won'r even try.
The Cat's Pajamas is mainly a collection of trunk stories, written between 1946 and 2003. The title tale is a piece of froth about two lonely people who find companionship in cats. She (not so oddly) is named Catherine; he (also not so oddly) is named Tom. They meet on a dark highway at night when each spot a small stray kitten in the middle of the road. Each stop their cars and rush toward the animal, reaching it at the same time, and both grabbing it. Catherine had just lost her cat last Friday; he had lost his on Monday. Both are mourning their loses, each desperate for a replacement cat. They argue over who deserves the cat more -- each putting forward a very good case. To avoid being hit by traffic, they take the cat to a nearby diner. When that closes, they take it to a hotel. It's interesting that neither have bothered to check the sex of the animal, although in Catherine's mind she has given it an androgynous name. The cat settles in the middle of the hotel bed and falls asleep. Finally, Tom and Catheirne decide to spend the night -- fully clothed; each sleeping on one side of the kitten. Whichever person the kitten is drawn to in the night will get the cat.
Any visitor who might be orbiting the Earth, squinting down in the dark at this story could tell you how it will end. This is a story that deals with animal lovers, and a story of people who sublimate emotions of closeness on to their animals.
Bradbury himself was a cat lover. He was often photographed in his office with a cat on his lap.
A very slight tale, told completely unrealistically, but having at its core a solid foundation of human frailty.
Well, indeed. This seems considerably more sensible than some of most fondly-remembered stories, such as "Time in Thy Flight" (in the first issue of FANTASTIC UNIVERSE and reprinted in the first issue of GAMMA and in RB's YA collection S IS FOR SPACE), which would like to suggest that children from the future would seek to go back to the Depression 1930s to enjoy a Real Hallowe'en...because things generally were So Good for orphans then). Some Bradbury stories work much better than others, and his early horror fiction often works best because he does tap into an emotional core in his ideation and detail.ReplyDelete
What no one needs much is his poetry.
The Library of America is publishing Ray Bradbury's work in those lovely volumes. As Todd points out, Bradbury's stories do tap into an emotional core...which helps to explain his continued popularity with readers. Excellent review!ReplyDelete