A couple days after I arrived back in the States I was wandering around downtown Chicago and, as I tend to do, I wandered myself right into a bookstore.  One of the first books I noticed was Meowmorphosis, which I immediately took a picture of, with the intention of tweeting it with a caption that ran along the lines of “futility at its finest:  absurdifying absurdist fiction.”

(The Meowmorphosis is put out by Quirk Classics as a parody, for lack of a better term, of Franz Kafka’s The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis is about a man named Gregor Samsa who works as a traveling salesman, which he hates, to support his father, mother and sister.  The story begins on the day he wakes up to find he has turned into a huge bug.)

I bought Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, instead.

Clearly, I kind of like classics turned into something almost new by adding vampires, zombies or sea monsters.  However, choosing a book that is already a little bit left of center and making it a different kind of crazy does not make very much sense.  Think of your own idea instead of piggybacking.


The reason this worked so well (conceptually, at least, as I have not read either of the above books) with Jane Austen is because her fiction, although satirical, is ordinary and straight-laced when compared to a story about a man who wakes up one morning as a gigantic insect.  The dissonance is what makes the rewrite work.

A few days ago I saw The Meowmorphosis at the library.  There are some books that are impossible to invest in when they require money, but when all that the tiny novel is asking is for a little bit of time…how could I say no?

Since I’ve started reading I have bounced wildly between disgust, boredom, frustration, kind of liking and completely enjoying the book.

The beginning was bad because Cook essentially copied Kafka word for word (which is what is done effectively in the Jane Austen books) to the point of inanity.

For example, when Samsa (insect edition) first tries out his new limbs, the struggle makes sense.  “He had…numerous little legs which never stopped waving in all directions and which he could not control in the least.  When he tried to bend one of them it was the first to stretch itself straight; and did he succeed at last in making it do what he wanted, all the other legs meanwhile waved the more wildly in a high degree of unpleasant agitation” (Kafka 5).

A supine bug waves its legs like mad.  A supine cat should not have that problem.  Unless it is in a Quirk Classic, that is.  The same passage, cat style, reads thusly “…If he wanted to bend one of them, then it was the first to straighten itself, and if he finally succeeded doing what he wanted with this limb, in the meantime all the others, as if left free, moved around in an excessively darling agitation”  (Cook 15).  I understand that adjusting from two legs and two arms to four legs might be a bit of a challenge, but somehow I doubt that it would be so similar to waking up as a bug.  Be a little creative, Cook.  Please.

Outside of that, Samsa’s family, who feared him outright as an insect, were torn between fear and a need to hold him and coo at his cuteness as a cat.  When Kitten Samsa first emerges from his room his manager “press[ed] his hand against his open mouth and mov[ed] slowly back” and then ran down the stairs without his belongings.  Alternately, Samsa’s mother (because women cannot avoid the inherent adorable nature of kittens) “collapsed right in the middle of her skirts, which were spread out all around her, her face sunk on her breast, peering at him with large and delighted eyes.  She held out her arms and Gregor leapt happily into them…”  (Cook 29).

I was also a wee bit frustrated with Cook’s indecision regarding the cat’s size.  Supersized or ordinary? Pick one and stick with it, dude.

Eventually the exorbitant use of the words “adorable” and “fluffy” and Samsa’s need to constantly knead carpets, curtains and bedspreads with his super-cute paws forced me to chill out a little and just read the book for the hell of it.  When I stopped taking the book the least bit seriously I really liked it.  I mean, it’s a children’s book for adults.  When is the last time you read a silly book about a kitten?

However, about 30 pages after I stopped taking the book seriously the book started to take itself seriously and turned, not only into a commentary on itself, but on its inspiration, existence, catdom, dreams, etc.

In Cook’s version people often turn into animals in their sleep and instead of doing the noble thing and dying in their bedrooms like Insect Gregor did, they jump out of windows and triple the story’s length by talking too much and licking their paws in superficially similar but intrinsically different ways.  It’s a cat thing.  We wouldn’t understand.

Worst of all, there is no room for interpretation in this text.  Coleridge invented characters that say what they mean so explicitly that it feels like reading Sparknotes, Director’s Cut, which is to say that there were tons of unnecessary details that took away from the streamlined nature of a good text, but it was condensed to only be the boring stuff.  Take this page and a half long speech that I have cut down for your reading “pleasure” as an example:

“There was much symbolism in my monologue if you cared to listen…in addition, the whole chapter was an allegory for the Bohemian anarchist movement and the essential unknowability of the world.  Didn’t you notice?” (Cook 97-98)

I have not finished yet.  Samsa’s current paralysis regarding whether he should allow the cats to continue prosecuting him or if he should just go home is mindnumbingly boring and redundant to boot.

I only have about 50 pages left.  Maybe it will improve.

Regardless, the middle of this book sucks.

What I read:

Cook, Colridge and Kafka, Franz. The Meowmorphosis.  Philadelphia:  Quirk Books, 2011.  Print.

Kafka, Franz. The Basic Kafka.  New York:  Washington Square Press, 1979.  Print.


I have now finished The Meowmorphosis.  When Gregor returned home to where he should be, I again found the book rather manageable.  I still had my issues with kitty size and whatnot, but appreciated the tribute to the apple throwing and like the use of the too tight collar in lieu of the rotting apple to bring about the ending the book had to have.  It fit.

If you want to read this book read the beginning and the end.  As soon as the cat jumps out the window skip to the part where he comes back home and methinks you’ll enjoy it as a comedic reinvention of The Metamorphosis.  I would have, anyway.