cover image Thomas Gray, Philosopher Cat

Thomas Gray, Philosopher Cat

Philip J. Davis. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $10.95 (143pp) ISBN 978-0-15-188100-0

The central characters of this charmingly fey but slight novella are Thomas Gray, a female cat of metaphysical inclinations, and the eccentric Lucas Fysst, historian of science, Anglican priest and Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge. The eponymous feline, named after the author of the ``Ode on a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Goldfish,'' inadvertently enables Fysst to further his research and find true love and happiness. Davis, a professor of mathematics possessed of a dry donnish wit, follows in the footsteps of Carroll and Tolkien in this fantastical whimsy. Initially a clever, intelligent andif a bit show-offycivilized book, the guiding conceit eventually stretches into tedium, and the fragmentary episodes fail to cohere into a satisfying whole. Yet, if Thomas Gray and Lucas Fysst's diffuse philosophical ruminations do not add up to anything substantial and if their wit is at times labored, this likable book, replete with stimulating intellectual trivia and the elegant Oxbridge sensibility, leaves the reader with lightened spirits. (October)