cover image The Company of Cats

The Company of Cats

Michael J. Rosen. Doubleday Books, $20 (269pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42077-8

Cats don't have an easy time in this collection, the companion volume to Rosen's The Company of Dogs. Serving as furry metaphors for loss and isolation, felines here are usually strays or unwanted to begin with, and often end up dead or missing. Responding as a reader rather than a protective cat lover isn't always easy; fortunately, consistently masterful storytelling assuages most of the guilt of enjoyment. Both Penelope Lively and Wright Morris contribute sly revenge tales with unfortunate cats as the vendetta vehicles. In Susan Fromberg Schaeffer's riveting ``Chicago and the Cat,'' a scientist discovers the emptiness in his own heart only after he allows a cat named Figaro to slowly die before his eyes. The late Roald Dahl is up to his customary wickedness in ``Edward the Conqueror,'' a tale of a dotty woman, a cat who may or may not be Liszt reincarnated, and an ominously burning bonfire. But the collection is not entirely without lighter themes: Phillip Lopate writes of a man who is gradually seduced by the imperious destructiveness of a marmalade; Merrill Joan Gerber has a flea-ridden kitten unexpectedly reinvigorate the sex life of a suburban couple. Photos, by Tony Mendoza, not seen by PW . (May)