The Autobiography of
Foudini M. Cat

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Get *The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat* delivered to your door! The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat
Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
Alfred A. Knopf
165 pages
Copyright 1997
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

previous reviewnext review

If Susan Fromberg Schaeffer had written The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat to convince non-catlovers of the relative merits of the species, this short novel would not land neatly on its feet. But Schaeffer seems to have intended nothing of the sort. Rather, she's written a little story that ought to touch the hearts of those who have ever lived with a cat. Given that a big galoot of a dog ultimately becomes the title character's best friend, humans whose families have included dogs and cats simultaneously are those who will appreciate Foudini the most. A limited audience, but then no novel will attract every reader.

Curled Up With a Good BookAn orphaned kitten tries desperately to fend for himself in a basement laundry room. Too young to catch the occasional mouse crossing his path but imbued with a deep distrust of people, the kitten eludes capture by the well-meaning woman who discovers him and leaves him milk-softened cat food to keep him from starving. One day, his eyes gummed shut with infection, he staggers out from behind the dryer when he smells the food and is apprehended. He is well aware that he will be eaten, that the woman has just been fattening him up, for all cats who have lived in the wild have the memory-dreams of men and women coming after them with knives and forks.

The kitten is not eaten. He is taken to an animal hospital where he terrorizes the staff. The woman who captured him would have kept him, but finds herself allergic. The kitten narrowly escapes being put to sleep (the meaning of which he doesn't understand until later) when a woman whose own cat has just died adopts him. Foudini does not allow himself to be tamed -- as if that were ever in the nature of any cat. He hides in a locked room under a chest of drawers, submitting to the woman's touch only when hunger drives him out to eat the delicious-smelling food she prepares for him. To make matters even worse, there lurks right outside the door a monstrous, drooling dog who, of course, wants nothing more than to eat a tasty cautionless kitten.

Foudini eventually acquaints himself with the dog, and the two animals become the light of life for each other. Foudini's dog teaches him the ways of the more limited world that is his now. He must name the people (Foudini chooses "Warm" for the woman, "Pest" for the man). He must discover his Assigned Person -- who is "Warm," naturally. Foudini comes to accept his lot in life, making the trips from Cold House in the city to Mouse House in the country and back again, waiting out with dread uncertainty the weeks when Warm and Pest leave him and the dog in the care of amateur others while they vacation, playing with the dog or just lying amiably between the dog's slackly open jaws. A time will come, though, when the light of Foudini's life will begin to grow dim, and the cat will face the hardest ordeal of his colorful young life: going on after the one he loves most is gone.

Foudini relates his memoirs in his own voice, for the reason of instructing his flighty new housemate, a one-year-old female cat named Grace, in the hardships and hard truths of being a cat. He tells her of the dream visits he's had from the earliest people-assigned cats, of the importance of knowing one's place in the world, of the sacrifices made for him that he can never repay. When Grace isn't listening, Foudini laments her fuzzy-headed ways. When Grace talks to Warm, Warm cat-talks back, in her human ignorance saying ridiculous things:

"Have that muffin?" Grace asks. "Have that fish? Have that mouse?"
"Male cat smell!" says Warm.
"Have that ham?" says Grace.
"Alarm! Alarm!" says Warm.
They are a tower of babble, those two.

The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat might never have gotten published if it had been written by a first-time author, for its audience is indeed limited and the writing is not utterly enthralling. Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, though, has a track record. She's written ten other novels, including Anya and The Madness of a Seduced Woman, as well as having authored five books of poetry. Bottom line: if you like cats or even once liked cats, you'll probably like this book. If you've read others of Schaeffer's works, you have a better than average chance of liking this book. If you match either of the above profiles and want a quick but touching read, Foudini M. Cat should fit your bill.

Other books by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer:

Buy *The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.