Synopses & Reviews
Haughty Bengals, faithful Maine coons, and feral strays: These are the haunting familiars that animate Nina De Gramont's critically acclaimed debut collection of short fiction. Prowling through every story, these enigmatic creatures expose the hidden fears and passions of the female heart, and illuminate the profound truths of men and love.
A young woman finds two dark surprises in her home: a magpie dismembered by her mischievous cat, and an unsettling glimpse of her fiancés secret inclinations...
A pregnant housewife quietly suffers a visit from her troubled brother-in-law while her hidden anger comes to life in the suddenly hostile behavior of her docile house cat...
A frustrated newlywed clings to the last vestige of her well-appointed upbringing--a pampered Himalayan high point--until a rangy stray cat shows her the true meaning of marriage...
As clever, finessed, and keen as the feline disposition it celebrates, Of Cats and Men marks the arrival of an exciting new voice in fiction.
About the Author
Nina de Gramont teaches fiction at the Harvard Extension School. She lives on Cape Cod, with her husband, David Gessner.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
The nature of the beast --The closest place --Scuffling --The wedding bed --Human contact --In his shoes --The politeness of kings --By his wild lone --Stealing baby's breath --Lieutenant Island.
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your groups reading of Nina de Gramonts highly praised short fiction collec-tion, Of Cats and Men. We hope they will enrich your understanding of the work.
1. In the story “By His Wild Lone,” Mia says, “How much of a pet can a cat really be? Remember how the cat walks? ‘Through the Wet Wild Woods, waving his wild tale, and walking by his wild lone. Thats the thing. Cats will accept what comfort they can get, but when it comes down to it, theyll always take care of themselves.” On the whole, does this statement apply to the cats in the stories? What about the men and women?
2. After discovering that her brother-in-law has let her cat run away in “The Closest Place,” Tessa says to her husband, Ben, “If we were a pride of lions or a pack of wolves, wed devour him. Wed fall on him and destroy him. Tear him from limb to limb for the good of the pack. The protection of the family.” Are there other stories in Of Cats and Men in which a character expresses similarly intense feelings of family loyalty and protectiveness?
3. In both “Scuffling” and “The Closest Place,” something happens to a feline character that mirrors what a human character desires. What are these incidents and what do they indicate about the characters ability to control the behavior of cats versus people?
4. In “The Wedding Bed,” Camille, a graduate student from a wealthy, sophisticated, upper middle class family, describes her Persian cat Penny as a “luxury,” and says of her husband, who works as a roofer, “Joe could live anywhere. He would be just as happy inside the van, with the yellow cat.” Yet, Camille sets out to “court” the stray. Is Camilles attempt to befriend the yellow cat an effort to compensate for feelings toward Joe? Is Camille aware of the similarity between her fathers disparaging remarks about her husband and the alley cat? Do you think these attitudes influence her feelings and behavior?
5. Several of the stories revolve around an outsider (human or feline) who significantly alters the dynamic between a couple. In which stories does this happen? In each of these stories, is there an existing flaw in the relationship that is magnified or is it a case of a new element being introduced?