The Meowmorphosis (Quirk Classics) Paperback – Illustrated, 10 May 2011
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Gregor Samsa wakes up as an adorable kitten, and Kafka's famously surreal story becomes even more brain breaking. Samsa's fate is especially poignant, and his family's treatment of him is all the more inhumane, now that he's cute and furry. Cook ( a pseudonym for a popular fantasy author) creativly draws from Kafka's other works to apd the original short tale to novel length. With a biographical note alleging that Kafka was stalked all his life by sinister cats untill he became obsessed with them, and a plot that weaves a new narrative about a group of formaly human cats who run a nonsensical and arbitary court, the book seems like an artifact form a peculiar and troubeling alternate universe. Jane Austen mashup fans won't know what to do with this one, but it's highly recommended for connisseurs of the bizarre. --Publishers Weekly, March, 2011----Well, why not take a well-known classic like Kafka s Metamorphosis and rewrite it in true mash-up style so that rather than waking up one morning and finding that he s been turned into a beetle, Gregor Samsa wakes up to find he is now a cat? The Meowmorphosis is a strange book, for although the concept is not a little ridiculous, it makes some quite serious points and goes on to incorporate elements of Kafka s The Trial and other works too. Its surprisingly rather good and in addition, its a nicely produced book with some intriguing full-page illustrations to enliven what is already a fairly lively text. This book is just one of a series of mash-up or remix novels in the Quirk Classics series. Other titles in the series are Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and perhaps the best title, Android Karenina. I like to think that Kafka in particular might have rather enjoyed The Meowmorphosis and it certainly carries on his tradition of providing an oblique perspective on life and allowing his readers to see the inherent zaniness of familiar human behaviour...But the book soon departs from mere parody, and while the author retains many of the elements of Metamorphosis, he allows Gregor to find his own cat-like destiny with its own feline charm and interactions in the society of street cats who turn out to be a definitely Kafkaesque bunch of animals. Gregor s family seem to accept his transformation, their main concern seeming to be the loss of his earning potential because his job as a fabric salesman had enabled him to support his parents and sister. His mother cannot bear going into his room to look at him, but Gregor s sister Grete takes quite easily to looking after him by feeding and grooming him and cleaning his room. But of course, life in one room is no life for a cat and eventually on a snowy evening, Gregor manages to escape into the city streets. He discovers the delicacy of his sense of smell finding that when he investigates a rubbish heap he can 'discern haddock from cod . . . what other creatures had visitied the alley before him, what sorts of moods they had been in and whether or not he could expect rain later this evening'. Once he has left home he finds himself not at all concerned for his family, for it is int he nature of cats to be only interested in where the next meal is coming from and where a warm spot to sleep can be found.When he encounters the community of other cats, he finds himself in the world of Kafka s The Trial. He encounters the Academy of Cats is arrested and imprisoned, accused of unknown crimes, but as the investigation progresses, he finds himself more confused than ever, for his accusers seem surprisingly disinterested in finding an actual crime committed by Gregor, but more interested in a sort of universal guilt in which he has become complicit.-a Common Reader,May, 2011.'Kafka's Metamorphosis given 'OMG so cute' makeover Meowmorphosis is latest literary 'remix', transforming tortured hero into a fluffy kitten --The Guardian, May, 2011
This is oddly compelling and disturbing at the same time--FantasyBookReviw, May, 2011--Coleridge Cook s writing fit in really well with the essence of Kafka and consequently, the story has a good flow to it. There were some pretty humorous moments as well. This is, after all, a story that happens from the perspective of a cat and while a lot of the story was about what was going on around Gregor, there were moment s of very cat-like interjections (you know, ear scratching, pouncing, kneading, all that stuff that cat s adore on their schedule of course). Gregor s night on the town and seeing the different perspective of Josef K and Franz (other men-turned-cat s) made for some good moments as well. The Meowmorphosis is a fresh take on an old story joined by those ridiculously awesome illustrations that Quirk novels always have, an fairly hilarious Appendix titled The Curious Life of Franz Kafka, author of The Meowmorphosis, and what I think are some of the best discussion questions I ve ever seen in a book. Basically, I consider this one definitely worth checking out--Among Stories, May, 2011-- The story still retains the same existential angst as the original book, but the tongue-in-cheek humor of a man suffering through these crises as a cat instead of a bug is truly hilarious. Cook, along with his writing partner Kafka, also uses this technique to espouse philosophy from the mouths of cats, exploring what it is and what it means to be a member of their species. As someone who is not at all a cat lover (I have terribly allergies, and they know I have terrible allergies, so they like to screw with me), I was endlessly entertained by having an eloquent cat postulate about the things that make them superior to humans (because, as we all know, cats do think they're better than us). But Cook & Kafka manage to articulate why cats might feel this way, from their own point of view, and while the end result is humorous, it's also quite insightful. There were a few points in the book where the long-winded philosopher-cat ramblings carried on a bit too long, but for the most part, I was impressed by Cook's ability to get into the minds of an adorable kitty in such an amusing manner. -- --The Daily Genoshan, May, 2011
...this offering is another splendidly silly example of the incraesigly popular new genre that is mash-up fiction. Combining Franz kafka's original nightmarish classic novella about one man's sens eof alienation and the nature of exsistence with his sudden transformation into a cute kitten - well, why not? - this title alcks none of the surrealism of teh seminal masterpiece that serves as its inspiration. While this is porbably not one for the literary purists out there, it's great fun and provides a refreshing escape from the norm. --The Cat magazine, September, 2011
About the Author
Franz Kafka is one of the 20th century's most influential authors. His novella "The Metamorphosis" and his novels The Trial and The Castle are regarded among the most original works of modern Western literature. Coleridge Cook is the pseudonym for a beloved fantasy novelist and blogger as well as the winner of several prestigious literary awards.
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Top Customer Reviews
But the further along I got in the book ( and the further it strayed from the original plot) the less interested I was. It felt long and boring and a bit thin.
The Images in the novel oh man ! I'm fond of surrealistic collages and the ones in this book hit the mark ! They definitely show the weird dark vibe that the book is trying to bring across.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In less capable hands, such a prompt would have resulted in a book that simply replaced the word "insect" with "kitten." But Quirk Books wisely commissioned an extremely capable fantasy writer to re-imagine Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis as a work of gonzo literature. I'm happy to report that "The Meowmorphosis" (published by "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies publisher" Quirk Books) is more than the one-note parody its early detractors feared.
While the initial chapters stick close to Kafka's well-known novella, the book spirals out of control (in a good way) when Samsa leaves his parents' home to relieve them of the burden of caring and feeding for such a large, adorable kitten. Samsa's adventure is both hilarious and horrifying to witness, and takes meta-fiction to dizzying new heights. The new co-writer absolutely nails Kafka's voice; the new passages integrate so well with the story that it's hard to believe the book isn't entirely written by one author.
Co-author Coleridge Cook (a pseudonym for an award-winning fantasy novelist) describes Samsa's feline behavior in detail, and not a page goes by in which a piece of furniture is not scratched or perched on. Bowls of milk are lapped at, and humans are snuggled with.
Will cat-lovers enjoy "The Meowmorphosis"? Yes -- there's no doubt in my mind that cat-lovers will find Samsa just as cute and cuddly as his sister does in the story. I'm a dog person, and even I was LOL-ing by the book's end.
First of all, it's pretty gutsy. Many of the books they've lampooned previously are classics with a long, classical pedigree, that've had film adaptations, miniseries, modernizations and bowlderizations aplenty. Taking something like Kafka's Metamorphosis, a book that's so much the province of deep thinkers, intellectuals and grad students, and putting in lolcat jokes is a move that's more than a little shocking.
And it works, on almost all levels. The book maintains the unsteady paranoia, that creepy feeling that what you're reading might just as well be a long hallucination as a description of actual events. The overall themes remain as well - the futility of modern work, man's disconnection from himself, being a stranger in your own family's house - but it is this very faithfulness to the source material that betrays the book from time to time.
The original Gregor was turned into a bug - this Gregor was turned into a kitten. At times, the book wants us to believe that kittens and bugs behave in almost exactly the same way, which just isn't so. This is most striking in the early part of his transformation, where Gregor is having difficulty getting to his feet. The scene plays out well in the original - "like a beetle on its back" is a common enough phrase for being greatly inconvenienced and unable to act - but with a kitten, it just doesn't make sense. And it's not as though the scene couldn't be rewritten to indicate that the problem wasn't one of anatomy, but rather one of a kittenish sleepiness.
This creeps up less as the story goes on, although it returns when Gregor is rooting through garbage and in his reactions to some of the other characters in the book.
If there'd been a little more attention paid to these few scenes, this book would've earned a solid five stars. As it is, it's a highly entertaining read and a strongly recommend it.
I borrowed this book from a friend after taking a glance at a few random passages. It seemed promising. I've read "The Metamorphosis" and generally like Kafka, but don't take him so seriously that I see him as above parody, or satirizing his works as sacrilege. So I went into "The Meowmorphosis" with a generally optimistic feeling that I might read something witty, something that would both lampoon Kafka as well as pay tribute to him. The experience was completely contrary to my expectations. About a third of the way into the book, I was disappointed with how boring and flat the parody was. Midway through it, I was frustrated and baffled by Cook's extensive deviations from the story, and put off by his insulting attitude towards Kafka. I only finished it by force of will.
Cook fails his task in different ways in different parts of the book. For the early and later parts of the book, the text closely follows a public domain translation of "The Metamorphosis" by Ian Johnston, with little more than the selective replacement of insect-related concepts with those appropriate to felines.. Nothing else substantial is added or subtracted, so that there is little gained from reading this alternate version. Instead it was simply tedious, because the story was identical to the original "Metamorphosis," only with some slight changes in vocabulary. So he's a cat instead of a bug--the concept is amusing, but it's hardly worthy to appear as a published parody when executed this way. It could have been done by anyone else with a minimal amount of intelligence, and required no special creativity or insight.
In contrast to how unimaginatively and mechanically Cook deals with the beginning and end, in the middle of the book he goes wildly in the opposite direction, adding a totally new episode that deviates wholly from the original "Metamorphosis." This section is based loosely on "The Trial." Such an insertion wouldn't have necessarily been bad per se, but Cook takes it upon himself here to engage in a kind of free-form parody, in which it becomes extremely obvious that he does not understand nor like Kafka. This section consists mainly of lengthy monologues by various characters, including the cat Joseph K., whose speeches drip with Cook's obvious disdain for and distaste for Kafka's writing.
For example: "I took you for an educated tom, sir, in which case you would have read your German classics and be quite accustomed to a narrator who only loves to hear himself speak--you must admit I speak very well, with many masculine and robust sub clauses, romantic dashes, and surprising punctuation--and forgets what the purpose of telling the story was in the first place something like two-thirds of the way through. This is considered traditional!"
There is much more of this. Most of the writing in this section is terrible and clumsy, and does not capture the spirit of Kafka at all. It is has a boisterous, over-bearing and excessively dramatic flamboyance in it that is wholly absent from Kafka. Apparently Cook thinks that in order to write like Kafka, one must simply construct long, bombastic sentences with many clauses and pointless digressions. But this is only superficially like Kafka, and only captures the crudest features of his writing. Cook's writing is abrasive, and ostentatiously absurd. Kafka's is none of these things. When Kafka writes an extended monologue, it may be pointless and absurd, but it is a much more subtly crafted and seductive absurdity. It does not shout itself at you the way Cook's ham-fisted parody does. Love it or hate it, Kafka's style has nothing in common with Cook's misconceived imitations.
My impression is that Cook really hasn't read much Kafka, or didn't read Kafka very carefully. Anyone reading these middle sections of "The Meowmorphosis" who hadn't read Kafka first would come away with a very inaccurate impression of what Kafka's writing and ideas are like. Now, as a parody, of course "The Meowmorphosis" shouldn't emulate Kafka too closely. But a good parody needs to preserve some essential core of its target in order to be satisfying...
... that is to say, if the parody hopes to engage readers who have any fondness for the original. As I said, it seems clear to me that Cook dislikes Kafka intently (the mock biography at the end--based largely on Kafka's Wikipedia entry--makes this even more evident). In this case, Cook's terrible attempt at lampooning Kafka's style makes a little more sense. I can see how it might be considered funny by those who dislike Kafka. Those who have read Kafka and come away angry and confused, who complain that Kafka is boring, pointless, and pretentious, might gain some pleasure at seeing Cook skewer Kafka, since they will not realize nor care that the skewering is inaccurate; they will just enjoy the visceral pleasure of seeing their object of scorn mocked. But this is the worst spirit in which to make (or receive) satire. Seen in this light, "The Meowmorphosis" is nothing more than an angry rant.
Needless to say, I do not recommend this to anyone, whether you enjoy Kafka or not. But if you still do feel inclined to read it, at least read some genuine Kafka first.
What works well is that, for the most part, Cook doesn't just try to swap out "kitten" for "bug." The Metamorphosis plot trajectory is there, but there's not a one-to-one identification, which would have been simplistic and would have left out a lot of good jokes (such as Gregor's sister's overwhelming adoration for her cuddly kitten brother). The book fortunately didn't go for the LOLcat humor, as I feared it might, which would date an otherwise "classic" mashup. It takes advantage of Kafka's gloomy modernist glumness and sense of the absurd and makes us see them through the eyes of a tortured kitten's soul, and the results are hilarious.
There's a departure in the middle of the book that lampoons The Trial. For readers who are familiar only with The Metamorphisis, this is going to be confusing and potentially boring. I wouldn't edit it out because it adds absurdist meat to the text and builds up Gregor's character and his torments, but readers who are only casually interested in Kafka may want to be advised.
The biographical note on Kafka at the end deserves special note; it's a riot. Satirical and biting, it finds a shocking thread in Kafka's life (cats!) and lampoons modernism at large. Don't skim over it-- it's a nice little treat waiting at the end of this novel.
Quirk does it again.
The end that Samsa finds would seem more deserved were he, as in The Metamorphosis, a(n) insect/bug/vermin/monster (Ungeziefer, auf Deutsch). A kitten, an adorable one no less, should have been-- adored. I spent the first half of the book awaiting the family's realization that Samsa deserved to be cuddled and petted. I waited in vain, for the best they have for him is disdain and approbation. And that is the point of the exercise.
Samsa seemingly escapes this living death by entering into the world of cats. But in Cat Court he is tried, convicted and sentenced to return to his family life. Were he worthy of catdom, he would have defended himself to the other cats. He would have summoned all the dignity that makes a cat a cat. He would have gone forth denying the court's jurisdiction and affirming that whatever had occurred before, he was now a cat and thus beyond judgment, even by other cats. Alas, he is essentially lacking, and can only return to his family. After his return, the family's attitude toward Samsa becomes openly hostile and violent, and that is that. One is free to make what one will of such a work.
I was disappointed in that Meowmorphosis was little besides retelling. So much more were possible, had Coleridge brought fresh ideas to the story. Capturing the soul sucking effect of the original by remaining true to its text, he neglects to recast the story in a more contemporary idiom. There is a missed opportunity to look at Samsa and his situation in a new light and find some other fate, if only a different doom, for him. Even with Samsa still doomed, deeper exploration of the characters of the story, the thinking and alternatives behind Samsa's eventual decision, and of the attitudes of the others would have made Meowmorphosis far better than it was.