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Monday, January 21, 2013

From M. Burton, Perth, Australia - Regarding Millhauser On Tom And Jerry


Hello Le Noeud Papillon,

Sorry for sending this to you in an email; I am not a Facebook user. Anyhow, there is a pretty cool quote within a short story in a recent collection ("Dangerous Laughter") by a guy called Steven Millhauser (who until I read "Dangerous Laughter" I had not heard of, but who has in fact previously won a Pulitzer Prize). The story opens the collection and is called "Cat 'N' Mouse" and is a slightly absurd blow-by-blow description of a Tom and Jerry cartoon, containing such magnificent lines as:

The cat understands that the mouse will always outwit him, but this tormenting knowledge serves only to inflame his desire to catch the mouse. He will never give up. His life, in relation to the mouse, is one long failure, a monotonous succession of unspeakable humiliations; his unhappiness is relieved only by moments of delusional hope, during which he believes, despite doubts supported by a lifetime of bitter experience, that at last he will succeed. Although he knows that he will never catch the mouse, who will forever escape into his mousehole a half inch ahead of the reaching claw, he also knows that only if he catches the mouse will his wretched life be justified. He will be transformed. Is it therefore his own life that he seeks, when he lies awake plotting against the mouse? Is it, when all is said and done, himself that he is chasing? The cat frowns and scratches his nose.

Anyway, the quote in question, which I think perfectly encapsulates the impossible coolness of wearing the exact right bow tie, occurs when the mouse assembles a robot female cat to entrap the cat, and the cat falls in love with the robot on sight and is instantly transformed into a dandy:

The mouse is standing at his workbench, curling the eyelashes of a mechanical cat. Her long black hair is shiny as licorice; her lips look like licked candy. She is wearing a tight red dress, black fishnet stockings, and red high heels. The mouse stands the mechanical cat on her feet, unzips the back of her dress, and winds a big key. He zips up the dress and aims her toward the mousehole. In the living room, the mechanical cat struts slowly back and forth; her pointy breasts stick out like party hats. The cat's head rises over the back of the armchair. In his eyes appear hearts pierced by arrows. He slithers over the chair and slides along the floor like honey. When he reaches the strutting cat, he glides to an upright position and stands mooning at her. His heard is thumping so hard that it pushes out the skin of his chest with each beat. The cat reaches into a pocket and removes a straw boater, which he places on his head at a rakish angle. He fastens at his throat a large polka-dot bow tie. He becomes aware of a ticking sound. He removes from his pocket a round yellow watch, places it against his hear, frowns, and returns it to his pocket. He bends close to the face of the cat and sees in each of her eyes a shiny round black bomb with a burning fuse. The cat turns to the audience and then back to the dangerous eyes. The mechanical cat blows up. When the smoke clears, the cat's fur hangs from him in tatters, revealing his pink flesh and a pair of polka-dot boxed shorts.

Anyway, sorry for the long email! I always enjoy reading whatever is posted to the LNP blog and, as you so obviously do also, I love to read and I figured at the very least that you might find a fair bit of enjoyment in pursing the work of Mr Millhauser!
Have a great week,

M. Burton


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