Quick Review: P.S Your Cat is Dead (1973) – James Kirkwood

Dark, twisted and hilariously funny; P.s Your Cat is Dead was the novel adapted play of the same name and which was made into the 2002 film by Steve Guttenberg. I do not know much about either the play or the film, so for the purposes of this review, I will focus primarily on the novel version.

I loved this book right from the very first page. After a series of incredibly unfortunate circumstances, including multiple  burglaries, the loss of a job, and the permanent exit of his girlfiend Kate, James Zoole finds himself on the edges of breaking point, and it is on New Years Eve where he finally looses it. After Kate leaves, her possessions in tow, James finds his burglar, Vito  hiding underneath the bed. In a moment of insanity, James decides the best course of action is to tie him and keep him there over the duration of New Years Eve.

Though slightly dated and perhaps akin to that of a ranting monologue, this novel contains themes such as ageing,  homosexual curiosity and desperation. The characters of James and Vito, though both have fully-developed personalities, are often hard to pin down. James spends the majority of the novel coming to terms with the hopelessness he has suddenly found himself in, and, although he is not homosexual, he seems to be constantly battling on the edge of uncertainty. His ex-girlfriend Kate, wishes he was more adventurous and the novel follows this character arch- though it is perhaps rather obvious.  Vito on the other hand, is confidently bisexual, and describes the tragedies in his life that have led him into thieving. He is spontaneous and perhaps, the complete opposite of James. However, the pair become friends; their friendship bound by the hopelessness of their situations.

Oh, and by the way… James’ beloved cat, Bobby Seale is dead. Despite all that happens, this is the one thing that James seems truly devastated about.

This book is a fun read and takes a comical look at themes on the edgier side of life. Even philosophical undertones move across the pages- what exactly is the meaning of life?

Could we merely be hapless chessmen jerking convulsively through our moves  from square to square, helpless to avoid this pitfall, that snare- or yes, sometimes ‘Coming up Roses’, called achievement and happiness.

Well, relative happiness.


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