Tag Archives: Archy & Mehitabel


C   is  for:  Cats, Chik-lit, Comics,  Cockroach,  Critics

CatsCaboodle Ranch:  American Craig Grant,  has spent his life
savings, over $100 000, in buying a 30 acre property on which he runs a
home for stray cats – the population is estimated at 500 although nobody is too  sure about the exact count. Craig started the project in 2003.  He has built dinky little  wooden houses for his guests, there is a church building, perfect in its detail, with infra red lamps inside for the cats’ comfort and warmth –  awww, the man  is a saint.  All his guests have to be neutered/spayed, and he will not euthanize.
Give the man a medal!


Chik-lit: There’s a lot of sniffiness and opprobrium attached to this genre, and it’s the upper echelons of the elevated heights of Literature (with a capital ell, please note) that are generating the scorn and derision.  The title Chik-lit is quite a new nickname for the genre previously dismissed as Womens’ Fiction. Someone summed
Chik-lit up rather well, I thought, saying it was chiefly about shoes, shopping  and sex : a sort of print version of the TV series Sex & the City. Somehow the Aga-sagas of Joanna Trollope are considered to be modern novels, while other writers are banished to the outer shores of Chik-lit. I’m still trying to work out why light novels that entertain and amuse should be so disregarded ?

Have we abandoned the idea of reading for pleasure?
I do hope not! And, P.S. try South African writer Fiona Snyckers’  Trinity  novels for an entertaining read. As Trinity says “I’m so over the  Struggle literature thing”.  Hear hear.

Comics : my childhood was brightened immeasurably by the antics of the characters in Beano, the complications of family life with Oor Wullie and the Broon  Family (via the Scotsman newspaper) and the exciting adventures of  Dan Dare, zooming through the galaxy fighting the evil green Treens (of course they were green! all space baddies have to be  green).  These daring exploits left me with a lasting love of Science Fiction novels. My Dad organized the subscription to Eagle comic, and I have a sneaking feeling – with the wisdom of hindsight – that he enjoyed Dan Dare even more than I did. Later on I read girlie stuff like Jacky, but it was very  tame compared to the excitement of Eagle.
And I have to add a footnote about the Scottish cartoons.  My Mother found an Oor Wullie Annual  in a bargain bookshop in BLOEMFONTEIN, of all places.  Brand new book, never opened, new as new could be :  and on sale in a thoroughly  non-English speaking city, in Africa. She promptly bought it for R5-00 and  mailed it to me. I love it, and dip into it periodically, when I need a cheer-up.  Oh the mysteries of synchronicity … or fate …. or book marketing …. who knows?

Cockroach –  I think if you were to hold a competition to nominate the most hated insect, the good old cockroach would be right up there, along with the spiders. They seem to be universally loathed.  After being introduced to Archy, the literary  cockroach who wrote vers libre on his journo friend’s old Remington typewriter, by means of butting his little cockroach head against the keys – ag shame! (and yes, he did complain of headaches), I lost my heart to him and his no-good alley cat friend Mehitabel, whose life story Archy was gamely typing out.
All in lower case, and minus punctuation,  you understand.  How do you think he could operate the shift key and  type at the same time? Work with me, people!
Anyway, Archy’s poems and Mehitabel’s life story continued to entertain
newspaper readers for ten or more years, understandable because cats  have nine lives, and Mehitabel also claimed to be a re-incarnation of Cleopatra, so this was always going to be a long project.  I have a nasty feeling* Don Marquis’ books are now out of print (Faber & Faber were the publishers). Everybody should have a copy of Archy’s life of Mehitabel.  It contain such cynical gems as the following:

you ever

that when


get an idea


it all wrong


good many

failures are happy

because they don t

realize it many a

cockroach believes

himself as beautiful

as a butterfly

have a heart o have

a heart and

let them dream on


Critics: This Alphabet Soup section is ordered alphabetically, but perhaps it’s a Freudian slip on my part, that I’ve chosen to add Critics  the last ‘C’ entry  after Cockroaches.  Not that I am in any way implying that literary critics are in any way connected with cockroaches – perish the thought!  Maybe I should quit  while I’m ahead, and leave this topic well alone.  By the way, did you know this  scientific fact:  the cockroach is the only living thing reckoned to be able to withstand the after-effects of a nuclear blast? Which leads me to wonder whether there are already squads of radioactive cockroaches glowing a pretty phosphorescent green in the Los Alamos desert, come nightfall?  If there’s a Big Bang, all of us – critics included – will be fried to a frizzle but the good old cockroaches  will be waving their feelers and colonising what’s left of terra firma. Cats  and Cockroaches : two of natures most successful survivors.

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