“Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” by T.S. Eliot

Described by the magically-infallible (if only occasionally-reliable) Wikipedia as “a collection of whimsical poems by T. S. Eliot about feline psychology and sociology,” this work is perhaps most (albeit tangentially) famous for its role as “the basis for the musical ‘Cats.’” And that’s a shame, because it deserves to be recognized as worthwhile no matter/(in spite of?) what ALW did with it. It’s brilliant. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you!

But don’t take my word for it. Just listen to this YouTube video (helpfully re-sized by Yours Trulyto keep you from getting too distracted by the associated parade of Dangerously Cute Cat Pictures):

See? What fun!

There’s a Spotify playlist floating around that features Eliot reading the work himself, but this performance by Irene Worth and the legendary John Gielgud is just spectacular. Plus, someone in the comments put up an indexed playlist, which makes it even more enjoyable. I’ve been listening to them over and over again, and the word-play is really wonderful.

Of course, I already knew Eliot was a genius. And I already knew that I vastly preferred to listen to his works recited aloud by those who really know what they’re doing — in this case, M . et. M. Irene and John,  rather than read silently by someone who really doesn’t — aka, me. But still, I’m enjoying these far more than I would have expected, at least logically. (Because I don’t like cats, I’m a bit surprised that I like poems about them. I like our cat, though, so maybe that’s the “in.”)

HT to OpenCulture for setting me on the original hunt, to BrainPickings for re-enforcing the matter and for their brilliant Gorey contributions, and to YouTube for tipping the signal-to-noise ratio a little in our favor, at least for today.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.


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