Articles, essays, humor, and more — “The Big New Yorker Book of Cats” is a celebration of everything feline, collected from the archives of The New Yorker magazine…

BIG BOOK OF CATSby ANTHONY LANE

In honor of National Cat Day, we present the foreword to“The Big New Yorker Book of Cats,” recently published by Random House:

To anyone entering the offices of The New Yorker for the first time, whether as a casual visitor or as an inmate facing a long sentence, the greatest surprise is not the dearth of raised voices, the hush where the live band ought to be, or the lack of a decently stocked bar. It is the want of a cat. I mean, look at the place. There are cubicles, closets, half-empty bookshelves, tops of filing cabinets, laptops, and laps that are crying out for a shorthair. Why the post has not been advertised, let alone filled, is hard to fathom. Ideal candidates should be sleek, seductive, quick of tongue, slow to wrath, and, above all, nonhuman. They should aim, wherever possible, to be as self-combing as most of the writers; expert groomers, in the editorial department, are on hand to unpick any remaining knots. Fur balls, like dangling participles, are not welcome. Milk is in the fridge.

Was catlessness always the case within the precincts of the magazine? Has there really never been a resident Smoky, Macavity, Buster, Vesper, Oedipuss, Esmé (loved but squalid), Anchorman, Adolf, Jones, or kohl-eyed Cleopatra? Must we believe that our in-house grammarian of fifty years, the late Miss Gould, was not shadowed by an Abyssinian, say, of flawless pedigree, by the name of Subordinate Claws? It seems inconceivable. He would surely have struck a pose behind her shoulder, on the nearest windowsill, and followed the silvery motions of her pencil, not unlike the white cat in The Tale of Peter Rabbit, who gazes at goldfish in a pond: “She sat very, very still, but now and then the tip of her tail twitched as if it were alive.” The precision of Beatrix Potter, here as elsewhere, points to the first rule of felinology: you need to learn to look at cats, down to the last whisker, every bit as closely as they look at you. To them, remember, nothing is lost in the dark.

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(THE NEW YORKER  10.29.13)