Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Top

I was having a dream last night about a group of elephants distressed at their inability to drink due to the fact that they lacked trunks. I woke up and found my shirt twisted a bit around my throat--I straightened it and when I went back to sleep I saw the elephants had trunks again.

I've spent the past couple days reviewing Lovecraft and reading some of his work I hadn't read yet, including his essays. It came as something of a surprise to me that Lovecraft ever found it necessary to employ the word "snookums" but even more surprising is how funny and, I would add, truly insightful his "Cats and Dogs" essay is. Despite his "The Cats of Ulthar", I hadn't thought to look to Lovecraft for an erudite affirmation of feline superiority that all sophisticated souls recognise instinctively. But the man waxes admirably on the subject;

We have but to glance analytically at the two animals to see the points pile up in favour of the cat. Beauty, which is probably the only thing of any basic significance in all the cosmos, ought to be our chief criterion; and here the cat excels so brilliantly that all comparisons collapse. Some dogs, it is true, have beauty in a very ample degree; but even the highest level of canine beauty falls far below the feline average. The cat is classic whilst the dog is Gothic -- nowhere in the animal world can we discover such really Hellenic perfection of form, with anatomy adapted to function, as in the felidae. Puss is a Doric temple -- an Ionic colonnade -- in the utter classicism of its structural and decorative harmonies. And this is just as true kinetically as statically, for art has no parallel for the bewitching grace of the cat's slightest motion. The sheer, perfect aestheticism of kitty's lazy stretchings, industrious face-washings, playful rollings, and little involuntary shiftings in sleep is something as keen and vital as the best pastoral poetry or genre painting; whilst the unerring accuracy of his leaping and springing, running and hunting, has an art-value just as high in a more spirited way but it is his capacity for leisure and repose which makes the cat preeminent.

There are some bits in this essay I actually thought might be applicable to my term paper, though it may be a bad idea since I once overheard my teacher saying he doesn't like cats, calling them "nature's Republicans".

Lovecraft, in his essay, describes cats as "the runes of beauty, invincibility, wonder, pride, freedom, coldness, self-sufficiency, and dainty individuality -- the qualities of sensitive, enlightened, mentally developed, pagan, cynical, poetic, philosophic, dispassionate, reserved, independent, Nietzschean, unbroken, civilised, master-class men. The dog is a peasant and the cat is a gentleman." Which, I suppose, one could say bears out the idea, though cats, I would argue, possess the self-sufficiency in reality that Republicans only possess in the form of destructive delusion. Certainly Republicans are rarely described as beautiful, Elizabeth Hasselbeck notwithstanding*.

It's also the first solid evidence I can remember seeing supporting the statement on Wikipedia, "Lovecraft was also acquainted with the writings of another German philosopher of decadence: Friedrich Nietzsche." Which is a peculiarly limp statement, meant, I think, to rely on reader prejudices about Nietzsche for its meaning.

I, by the way, am acquainted with the works of General Motors. You know what that means.

*Even she has that Fox News, light Oompa Loompa look.

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