I read about a talking cat and now I’m happy

It’s been a laidback winter here at the Windhill Journal. Evidently too laidback, as I’ve been sleeping on the Journal; the last post was in January. This blog post exists because I got a call about the website’s hosting. Guilty, red-handed, for sitting around on a business expense. And it’s not like I’m in a media consumption drought; March 2023 and I’m eight novels and two, 30+ hour gaming experiences in, and I’ve just started God of War Ragnarok. I have no right to stew in my nerdy thoughts in solace, so blog writing it is.

After an arduous journey with the Losers’ Gang in Stephen King’s IT, I needed to come up for fresh, unhorrifying air. I believe in temperance and balance, so I sipped on Sosuke Natsukawa’s The Cat Who Saved Books, a YA novel translated by Louise Heal Kawai. My reading predilections have outgrown young adult fiction; creature features, cosmic horror and classic literature (recently, Herman Melville & Robert W. Chambers) is the current diet. But, The Cat was an impulse purchase from Book City, and a practice at washing off the rough edges. But another bookstore in my regular rotation, weighing in favour of fiscal irresponsibility… everyone has their addictions.

In The Cat Who Saved Books, we meet Rintaro Natsuki, a highschooler who inherits his dear and recently deceased grandfather’s bookstore, Natsuki Books. A quick Google search translates natsuki as green, or vegetable, or moon – collectively invoking farmer’s markets and RPG farming sims, in my mind. Natsukawa’s coming-of-age of a high-school hikikomori slots comfortably beside my Haruki Murakami and Sayaka Murata collections. His brand of prose leans far more towards a younger audience. In my imagination, the adventures of Natsuki and a talking tabby cat are painted in brushes of Hayao Miyazaki and Guillermo del Toro. For a light-hearted magical realism, Natsukawa is a comfortable read – it’s a bit on the nose, but a light Ghiblian dessert after a heavy Lovecraftian meal is a sweet bell.

The Cat Who Saved Books illustration by Yuko Shimizu

“This world throws all kinds of obstacles at us; we are forced to endure so much that is absurd. Our best weapon for fighting all the pain and trouble in the world isn’t logic or violence. It’s humor.”

As said by a talking tabby cat in a bookstore. Natsukawa leans heavy-handed into wholesome life lessons, wise in his homely naivety. “Logic and reason are never the best weapons in an irrational world,” says one villain in his labyrinth. It doesn’t get much more Miyazaki than that (unless of course the cat transforms into a twelve-legged yellow school bus). Miyazaki tends to be overt in his allegorical storytelling, and The Cat Who Saved Books reads within the same vein. At the end of the novel, Natsuki recommends to his young sweetheart Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude – this is an option that I may or may not take up. I’ve just got to plow through GoW Ragnarok first, Keep you posted, promise. I’ll leave you with my favourite passage:

“Reading is a lot like climbing mountains. It’s like finding a great view at the end of a long climbing trail. Reading can be gruelling. Of course it’s good to enjoy reading. But the view you can see hiking on a light, pleasant walking trail are limited. Don’t condemn the mountain because its trails are steep. It’s also a valuable and enjoyable part of climbing to struggle up a mountain step by step. If you’re going to climb, make it a tall mountain. The view will be so much better.”

Additional reading:

The Cat Who Saved Books (review) by Kathryn Hemmann, for Contemporary Japanese Literature

February Favourites 2023 by Alannah Batchellor, for Tiny in Toronto

“A commentary on 2022’s reading habits” for Windhill Journal

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