Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons

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Overview

From “a genuine American Dostoevsky” (The Washington Post): a dazzling, funny, bittersweet exploration of the mysteries of relationship, both human and animal.

When his favorite cat Biscuit goes missing, Peter Trachtenberg sets out to find her. The journey takes him 700 miles and many years into his past— into the history of his relationships with cats and the history of his relationship with his wife F., who may herself be on the verge of disappearing. What ensues is a work ...

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Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons

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Overview

From “a genuine American Dostoevsky” (The Washington Post): a dazzling, funny, bittersweet exploration of the mysteries of relationship, both human and animal.

When his favorite cat Biscuit goes missing, Peter Trachtenberg sets out to find her. The journey takes him 700 miles and many years into his past— into the history of his relationships with cats and the history of his relationship with his wife F., who may herself be on the verge of disappearing. What ensues is a work that recalls travel narratives from The Incredible Journey to W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. Trachtenberg ponders the mysteries of feline intelligence (why do cats score worse on some tests than pigeons?), the origins of their domestication, their terrible treatment during the Middle Ages. He also looks at the riddle of why any of us loves whom we love and all the unforeseen places to which that devotion leads us.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
"Not many things are better than a kitten"…I'm predisposed to love Peter Trachtenberg's new memoir…because of that one sentence, which is written without irony and appears in an author's note before the main narrative even gets under way. If you agree with it, I'll bet you a giant toy mouse that you will adore this book outright for its scrutiny of the domestic cat in all its cuddlesome glory…If you don't agree, you may still adore this book for everything else it offers…Trachtenberg is an impish and intelligent essayist, his writing sinuous and sensual…[he] is an extraordinarily perceptive observer of cats and persons, but to observe, after all, is never to truly know. To his great credit, he embraces this, and his uncertainty brings the profoundest rewards. Not many things are better than a kitten, but a book like this comes close.
—Jennifer B. McDonald
Publishers Weekly
With his marriage in turmoil, and his beloved cat, Biscuit, missing, award-winning author Trachtenberg (The Book of Calamities) attempts to parse out the truth about his love for each. History proves paramount in this exploration, and not just the personal. Through short sections of intelligent, often humorous prose, former and potential girlfriends and past pets are conjured in hopes of understanding how people can fall in and out of love. Trachtenberg explores his relationship with his wife from early dates to the day before completion of this manuscript, in an effort to deduce how they ended up in their present predicament. Trachtenberg also weaves in accounts of the ancient domesticated cat, famous literary felines, and artistic allegories. His literary flourishes are sometimes a stretch, as when the water cycle serves as an allegory for a cycle for love. “Where on the grief scale do you place a lost cat?” he muses, following an exploration of Victorian mourning methods, and the reader realizes that nothing—not the loss of a marriage or a pet—can be felt so precisely. Even if the book ends with questions left unanswered and the fate of the marriage still tenuous, Trachtenberg’s journey proves entertaining and enlightening. Illus. Agent: Gillian MacKenzie, Gillian MacKenzie Agency. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
Eileen Myles, author of Cool for You and Inferno
“This is Peter’s best book and if you don’t know what that means just imagine your sweetest, most perverse storytelling friend asks to meet because he has a confession to make. When you arrive he informs you that he loves his cat more than life itself, or exactly that much and then he opens his shirt and shows you the cat tattoo and then he begins to tell you of his love and in a puff hours vanish and it’s absolutely riveting.” 
Nick Flynn, author of  Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
“I am not a cat person—I approach each one on a cat-by-cat basis—yet Peter Trachtenberg is such a wonderful writer, and this book is so damn good, that I found myself carried along by its lucidity, its generosity, its deep wisdom. In the end, of course, Another Insane Devotion is about much more than cats.”

Publishers Weekly, 9/10/12 “Through short sections of intelligent, often humorous prose, former and potential girlfriends and past pets are conjured in hopes of understanding how people can fall in and out of love…Trachtenberg’s journey proves entertaining and enlightening.”

T: The New York Times Style Magazine, 10/7/12
Another Insane Devotion—about love, sex, marriage and especially cats—is a hallmark of brainy discursiveness.”

Booklist, 11/15/12
“[A] meditation on the meaning(s) of love…Trachtenberg’s lyric writing keeps the reader interested…making for a memoir that reads like a compelling work of fiction.”

Chronogram, November 2012 “Spiked with intellectual digressions and unlikely graphics, Trachtenberg’s eccentric meditation on loss and transition is not your everyday cat book…[He] uses language as a flensing tool, peeling back layers to glimpse deeper truths.”

ChicagoTribune, 12/2/12
“This is surely the best book written about what it means to love cats, and to wonder if they love you, since Carl Van Vechten's The Tiger in the House."

HudsonValleyNews, 11/14/12
“The season’s most eccentric book…You’ll have many smiles and a few tears while reading…The story of…the fierce and tender bonds of love between people and between people and cats…The book, in all its richness and humor,…tells us about loving a cat, loving a human being and where those loves can take us.”

InfoDad.com, 11/29/12
 “Sensitive writing, its focus on love and loss and the way the two sometimes merge, will intrigue people trying to come to terms with their own relationships (human and animal) and interested in a journey that proves as enlightening as it is entertaining.”

Bookviews blog, December 2012
“Trachtenberg is a talented writer who tackles subjects in ways that often make readers say ‘That’s me’ or ‘That’s my friend.’”
FionaMaazel.com, item about book: “[The] most engaging, sprightly, smart, and moving thing I’ve read in ages.”

VIVmag, 12/13/12
“What makes [Trachtenberg’s] story truly compelling—and haunting—are the images he paints, the poignant moments with both feline and female that make up this dual love story.”

New York Times Book Review, 12/30/12
“I’ll bet you a giant toy mouse that you will adore this book…But then, this is not just a pet memoir…[It’s] about the torments of grief and separation as much as it is about the nature of desire and devotion…Trachtenberg is an impish and intelligent essayist, his writing sinuous and sensual…Trachtenberg is an extraordinarily perceptive observer of ca

Los Angeles Review of Books, 4/9/13
“Another Insane Devotion is, at its core, a meditation on why we love… Trachtenberg deftly maneuvers between the personal, the historical, and the philosophical…His intelligence and wit as a writer carry the book…At the heart of the text is a complex and emotional mind working out some of the deeper questions of love, attachment, and loneliness.”

New York Times, 4/28/13
“Trachtenberg tried to figure out what motivated the various women and cats in his life…and failed entertainingly at both endeavors.”

Brevity, 5/14/13
“[Trachtenberg] uses his curiosity, as exacting as his prose, like a microscope to map the development and boundaries of love and marriage.”

WomanAroundTown.com, 7/10/13
“Even as Peter [Trachtenberg] searches for his beloved feline, he embarks on his own inner journey of discovery about himself, the meaning of loyalty, and what’s at the heart of loving and being loved.”

Internet Review of Books, 7/17/13
“A thoughtful and quirky book…If you love cats…you'll probably enjoy it.”

Bookforum.com, 8/14/13
“A far-flung and highly erudite meditation on the nature of love.”

Portland Book Review, 7/23/13
“Many readers will no doubt find several relatable recollections to keep them engaged.”

Kirkus Reviews
A rambling depiction of a troubled love affair between a couple and their cats. Trachtenberg (The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and its Meaning, 2008, etc.) begins with a disclaimer that this memoir "is based on real people…[but] also contains an artifact, an incident or detail that originates solely in my imagination," which he included "out of curiosity about the nature of nonfiction and its tolerance for admixture or adulteration." The author warns that he questions whether the memories he is writing about are real and admits that his wife disputes his account. "About my cat and the self I am with her I have fewer doubts." The author and his wife--novelist Mary Gaitskill, referred to throughout the memoir as "F."--married shortly after 9/11 and moved to a town north of New York City, where they and their cats could enjoy the rural environment. In 2008, Trachtenberg was teaching creative writing in a college in North Carolina while his wife attended an artist's residency in Italy. The cat sitter they hired to look after their collection of cats lost track of Biscuit, and he went missing. The narrative thread of the book is built on the author's decision to fly home and join the search for Biscuit, with flashbacks to other cats in their life intermixed with incidents in his courtship and subsequent married life. Trachtenberg paints a picture of his wife as a socially maladroit woman who courted rejection and had been cruelly bullied in her youth. He writes that he was drawn to her personality, which he found catlike: elusive and inscrutable. Despite the strains in their relationship--her deep depression after the death of another cat, his career problems and failure to be self-supporting, and more--the author reports surprise when his wife told him she wanted a separation. Ultimately, they reconciled, and Biscuit was found. A detailed but superficial account of a series of events related by an unreliable narrator.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738217291
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 10/8/2013
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 698,766
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Peter Trachtenberg is the author of The Book of Calamities and 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh. He is the recipient of Whiting Writers Award, a Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction, and a Bellagio Residency. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

PeterTrachtenberg.com 

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    Hyenasilver secretbio ה ※

    Name: Your face.<p>Looks: silver with gray leopard spots and silver left eye, right green eye.<p>Pers: Insane.<p>Status: mates with Toxin.<p>History: long as fu<_>ck. Gonna write a story about it on Missliterati (a website) called 'Story of an Insane Cat'.<p>Other: fu<_>ck off.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    The worst!!

    After reading so many great writers it is a shock to come across something so banal and sophomoric. AND I LOVE CATS!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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