We of the feline species appreciate nuance. We don’t go around assigning numbers or stars and rating things on linear scales of good and bad. Sometimes I’m in the mood to shred paper, and sometimes I just want to lie in a sunny corner and get my neck massaged with the deft fingers of language. Different books feed different desires. My rating system reflects this.
Here is a guide to my rating system, arranged in alphabetical order to aid your linear human way of making sense of things:
Baby Mouse: Baby mice are delicacies—you have to play with them for a while before going in for the kill. Or they play with you. You never know who’s in control really. You think you are, but the baby mouse has a wee sneaky mind of its own. It’s not predictable. You want it to be, because you know it’s sweet and soft and you want it so bad, but the fact that it isn’t is what makes it so fun and torturous. Sometimes, you find yourself letting it go just for the pleasure of the chase. Oh baby mouse, you are so tender and devious. You’re not like all the other toys, the ones I have to animate myself. You’re the real deal. You make me want to emit little squeaks of pleasure.
Catnip: Gets you high. Makes you think profound thoughts, space out, ignore your mundane obligations. Feeds the creative genius in you.
Corrugated Cardboard: This is that good escapist stuff that you can really sink your claws into and forget who you are, or what it was you were supposed to be doing. You can’t resist it. You keep going back. You lose track of time. Plus sometimes they hide catnip in there.
Doorknob: Doorknobs are those mysterious, shiny things that imply there’s something really good behind them, but you can’t get to it, so ha ha. You think you know how they work, but their surfaces are too slippery for you to get a proper hold with your paws. They hover above you in an obnoxious, patronizing, inaccessible manner. They are the kinds of books that make me feel like a stupid, un-evolved cat, like it’s my fault for lacking opposable thumbs, and not the doorknob’s fault for being both elitist and obtuse. I call your bluff, doorknob.
Dry Food: Dry food is kind of meh. It’s a little boring, always there, can get stale. But you eat it anyway because it fills you up on some level. These are the books I read mainly because I already started them and they aren’t too horrible, so I feel compelled to finish them. I do like that sense of accomplishment, when you get to the shiny bottom of the bowl. But whatever. There’s more where that came from. If I get distracted it’s okay. It’ll be there when I get back.
Ennui: I feel an existential crisis coming on.
Fresh Breeze: Oh the feeling of fresh breeze running through my whiskers. It’s refreshing when you come across the kind of book you’ve just never read before, isn’t it? Elegant, simple, lovely. It makes me feel all refined, like I could star in a laundry detergent commercial, but oh so much better.
Hair Elastics: Hair elastics make you feel kinda loopy, in a good way. They’re all stretchy. So versatile. You never get bored with books like hair elastics. You can read them on so many levels. Find new angles. Play with them over and over. Get your paw in there and tug on them with your teeth and watch ‘em snap. Watch ‘em fly across the room and nab ‘em in mid-air. Swat ‘em under the door like a soccer goal and then harass your editor until she retrieves them for you. Hair ties just got so much goin’ on.
Junk Mail: Junk mail sounds bad, but I love it. It’s that guilty pleasure entertainment. Nothing like clutching a piece of fresh junk mail between your paws, kicking it with your hind legs, and biting chunks off like a wild animal. Especially those envelopes with the little crinkly windows in them. Oh yeahhh. Junk mail are the books you shred through but don’t anticipate reading twice. Warning: Don’t take the junk mail approach to fine literature. You’ll regret it, like eating chocolate mouse (I mean mousse, Freudian slip, sorry) too fast and suddenly discovering it’s gone and you didn’t really savor it. Plus, your editor will get mad at you if she discovers you’ve shredded something important. Not that I’ve ever done that.
Litter Box: Unmentionable. I’d rather not go there.
Neck Massage: Oh those sentences, they feel so good. Like the words are fingers, stroking you, slowly, gently, in circles, digging deeper, yes, there; just let that sentence wrap around you, reach under your chin, yes, more, more please.
Squirrel Spin: Hell yeah, a Squirrel Spin is a wild ride. Pure adrenalin! Wheeeee! (GIF forthcoming.)
String: Strings are great teasers but they don’t let you hold onto them. They titillate me, but they also kind of piss me off. Hook without depth. I feel fished for and thrown back. Damn you, string. Wait no, I’m sorry, come back! Gah! Never mind.
Sunny Corner: These are the books you forget time with. Where you find yourself rereading sentences for the sheer pleasure of savoring them. Where you let the words soak into your fur and addle your brain with warm fuzzy heat. They are the books that remind you how wonderful it is to be a cat with no worldly responsibilities and no place to go. If you’re not a cat and have work and errands and things, I highly encourage you to find large windows of time in your life for these types of books. They will soothe your nerves and enrich your being. They are vitamin D for the soul.
Tail Fire: Holy crap, my tail’s on fire and I didn’t see it coming! Yeah, I knew there was a candle there. Yeah, I know my tail is fluffy and flammable. Still, this book made me look in one direction and then snuck up on me from behind. Not what I expected!
Wet Food: This is the good stuff. Wet food is all moist and with raw emotion. Churns me up inside. It reminds me of my kittenhood days at the shelter when all I had was loneliness and dry food and it makes me want to cry. But then it makes me so happy because I get wet food now, and that makes me want to cry, too. And then I think about all the cats out there that don’t get wet food. And then I think about the cats that do! In other words, it fills me with all these delicious and conflicting emotions. And surprises: sometimes you get turkey with gravy and sometimes seared salmon, and you never know. Sometimes the surprises make you sad or angry and sometimes they are exciting and delectable. Whatever the wet food makes you feel, you eat it up and go all soft inside.