Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Like e.e. cummings' big Olaf, There is Some Sh*t Oliver Won't Eat

First let me apologize for the asterisk. I'm doing it for the sake of the children (obviously) but also for the sake of the search engines. Somewhere someplace out there some graduate student is researching evasion and elision in online scatology.

I want to be a footnote in someone's doctoral dissertation.

But returning to our theme, as some of you may know there is something out there called Chicken Soup for the Soul, which as far as I can tell consists of a series of simple inspirational stories designed to put some joy, if not lead, in life's limp pencil. I know very little about the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series other than that the concept sounds hearty, happy, sappy and maybe just a little condescending.

(And don't you break in and say, "The concept sounds like sh*t." That's my footnote, little buddy. Second citation. Ibid.)

But I have read none of these tiny tomes. I fear the worst, though. I think I'll just give it a miss if it's all the same to you.

However -- and this will interest you -- it seems that CSftS has extended itself in odd and surprising ways, like a Michael Crichton virus. There at the pet store the other day for under $3 was a small sample bag of "Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul," in this case a dry cat food product. Well, my heart leapt up. Part of me wanted to buy it in the same spirit I once bought a six-pack of Billy Beer. The disconnect -- this long march from some kind of literary low concept to peddling cat kibble -- is so astonishingly large that the whole thing seems like a Mad Magazine spoof. So cat be damned in one sense. Buying the stuff would be a kind of joke. It would be something we could pull out of the cupboard to amuse our friends. That was our rationalization as we dragged it off the shelf. But truth was our cat is a finicky cat, and if the cat liked it we knew we would buy it for the cat again and again and again, the way one buys bunion remedy or hemorrhoid cream, the need overwhelming the connotation.

Bunions. Hemorrhoids. J. Alfred Prufrock.

I grow old. I grow old.
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

This is not chicken soup, my friend. This is great poetry. But I seem to have wandered off the point.

In a spirit of love tempered by shame, we poured out the food for Oliver. Well, I'll be darned. Oliver hated the stuff. It is the first dry cat food we have ever given him he refused to touch. We freshened it. We left it out overnight. Oliver still did not touch it.

What it is, I guess, is that Oliver is dark very dark. What he wants is some Dostoevsky Notes-from-Underground Existential Cat Treats. What he wants is some J.P. Sartre Nausea-ating Tuna on a Stick. What he wants is some Samuel Beckett Krapp's Last Beef with Rice in Aspic. At the very least he might take a little Charles Dickens Bleak House Tartar Control Lamb Crunchies with Cheese.

I mean, Oliver knows animals died to put that food on his plate. But who's going to go in the soup to nourish the poor chicken's soul?

Addendum: mistah cummings he dead but here's his poem.

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