The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat

( 7 )

Overview

Grace the Cat is not at all like me, as she is forever bent on mischief. But because I am an older and wiser cat, she looks to me for counsel, and so I have allowed Grace to prevail upon me to set down the story of my life as a housecat in the human world. . . .

As the irrepressible Foudini M. Cat regales us with his adventures, an exciting story unfolds. After his valiant but frail mother leaves him in search for food and never returns, the starving kitten is taken, hissing and...

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The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat

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Overview

Grace the Cat is not at all like me, as she is forever bent on mischief. But because I am an older and wiser cat, she looks to me for counsel, and so I have allowed Grace to prevail upon me to set down the story of my life as a housecat in the human world. . . .

As the irrepressible Foudini M. Cat regales us with his adventures, an exciting story unfolds. After his valiant but frail mother leaves him in search for food and never returns, the starving kitten is taken, hissing and spitting, to a frightening room with cages and men in white coats. Facing the specter of eternal sleep, the homeless cat is adopted by a woman he later calls "Warm." ("All cats like to make up strange names for things.")

From here Foudini enchants us with splendid tales of his unlikely but ultimately poignant friendship with Sam the Dog; their trips between Cold House in the city and Mouse House in the country; his mystical experiences with famous felines of the past; his near-death in a raging river that leads to a profound act of sacrifice; and his introduction to a silly young thing named Grace, which evolves into something completely unexpected.

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Editorial Reviews

Kimberly B. Marlowe
This entertaining cat's-eye view of life. . .can be recommended even to those who are less than entraced by felines. —The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In what surely is a fictionalized version of the life of a beloved pet, Schaeffer spins an appealing story via the feline narrator of this short novel. Ostensibly recording his experiences for the benefit of a young cat brought into the household, Foudini tells of a perilous kittenhood after his mother died; adoption by a couple he calls Warm and Pest, who transport him between their city and country houses; his initial fear of their huge dog, Sam; and the gradual growth of respect and love between feline and canine. However, Foudini's fearful personality and his lectures on the dangers of life are more than a series of funny and touching anecdotes (the day the woodchuck got in the house, the time Foudini was almost pulverized in the washing machine, etc.). Schaeffer (The Golden Rope) persuasively interprets a cat's view of the world and how it differs from a dog's and a human being's. She interjects feline fables into Foudini's dreams (one night Freud's stuffy cat appears to give advice). The story acquires poignancy when Sam becomes ill and doesn't return from the vet's hospital, and Foudini grieves for his gentle and protective friend. In the course of the narrative, Foudini's personality changes from nervous pessimism to a more trusting acceptance of love and domestic contentment. If at first rather cloying, the story gradually becomes affecting. Animal lovers will find it irresistible.
Library Journal
From an author noted for probing the psyche (e.g., The Golden Rope), a cat's story.
Library Journal
From an author noted for probing the psyche (e.g., The Golden Rope), a cat's story.
School Library Journal
A fast, easy-to-read novel. Foudini, a proud but not pompous feline, narrates his life story for Grace the Cat so that she might learn from his knowledge and experiences. His musings include everything from philosophy and Flying Feathered Feasts to the manipulation of Warm and Pest, their owners. The description of the relationship between Foudini and a dog is particularly touching as he moves from enemy to beloved friend. The story is realistic, correctly portraying the life of a pampered cat. Schaeffer's imagination is further shown as Foudini learns ancient cat wisdom from the ghost cats of Freud and Cleopatra. -- Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, Virginia
Kimberly B. Marlowe
This entertaining cat's-eye view of life. . .can be recommended even to those who are less than entraced by felines. -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Another addition to the cute cat book genre, this one more graceful and evocative than most. The question remains, though: Why has this author of serious, provocative fiction (The Golden Rope) wasted her time on a book about pets? Born the only child of a resourceful alley cat, Foudini M. Cat (the "M" stands for Mouser), enjoys a few good months with his mother before she goes off hunting for food one day and doesn't come back. Alone and frightened in his basement home, Foudini hides out behind the dryer until a thoughtful human rescues him and another adopts him. Of course, Foudini has no reason to trust humans at first, but after a while he allows himself to be befriended by his captor. Eventually, he realizes that the woman he calls "Warm" (for obvious reasons) is his "assigned person," and he thereafter devotes himself to keeping her company. Sharing the city house and country house between which Warm and her husband (called "Pest") shuttle with Foudini is a dog, Sam, who happens to like cats. The two pets strike up a lifelong friendship in which Sam protects Foudini from occasional life-risking behavior and Foudini reciprocates by cleaning Sam's fur. After Sam dies (apparently of old age), Warm and Pest provide a kitten, Grace, as his replacement. Foudini's wry commentary on Grace's foolish ways evolves to affection and, finally, love, as the ghosts of cats past, as well as Sam, advise him in his dreams. Schaeffer has been accused of getting a little too intense and weighty in her fiction. That's certainly not a problem here.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780449911457
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 544,782
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
Susan Fromberg Schaeffer was born in Brooklyn and educated at the University of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. in 1966. In addition to The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat, she is the author of ten other novels and five volumes of poetry, one of which, Granite Lady, was nominated for a National Book Award. She lives in New York.

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer's was known for her poetry and novels, which include Anya, Buffalo Afternoon, and The Madness of a Seduced Woman. Born in Brooklyn, she attended the University of Chicago in the '60s. She returned to New York City in 1967 to teach at Brooklyn College, where she met her husband, Neil Schaeffer. In 2002, the Schaeffers moved back to Chicago, where Susan served as a visiting professor in the English and Creative Writing departments at the University of Chicago. She died in 2011 at the age of 71.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Schaeffer:

"I am a very reclusive person. This is absolutely true. I can spend weeks at a time in the house and I don't mind at all. When I'm working, I become the world's worst correspondent, don't answer letters and barely make phone calls. I begin to think of the world outside as hermetically sealed, unreachable. This is hard on my friends who think I have either died or forgotten about them entirely. When I finish working for the day, I think about this and am swamped by guilt, but I've never been able to change my ways."

"My first job was horrible, and it was a good thing it was the only job I could get at the time. I worked in Boston for a publisher in the medical order department. By ten-thirty in the morning, I was finished with the day's work, and I had to spend the rest of the day appearing to be busy. After that, I was determined to finish my degrees and never have to have such a job again—although I did have one such job after I finished my Ph.D."

"My mother insisted I work during the summer before I began working at Brooklyn College, and I ended up at a religious T.V. station where scripts had to be typed scrupulously so that the minister did not find himself reading, ‘And the minister pauses here for an advertisement.' The T.V. station was very pleased with me, but I had a headache the entire time I was there. Since then, what headaches I've had were brought on only by me."

"I love old things—people, furniture, photographs. Old people know so much. Old artifacts appear to be trying to tell the stories of their lives and often inspire stories, if not novels, of their own. Time in Its Flight began when I found a picture of a child who was in his bed but who had been photographed by a photographer standing outside of the house who took the picture through a window."

"When I asked why anyone would have photographed a sleeping child while standing outside, the man who owned the picture said that was a ‘mourning picture.' The child had died, was probably contagious, and could only safely be photographed from a distance. I was struck by the difference in the nineteenth century's attitude toward death and my own. ‘There are a lot of pictures of dead children,' the owner told me, ‘and a lot of people who collect them. People took hair from someone who died and wove the hair into flowers and wreaths. People collect those, too.' I still have the first mourning picture I saw. It grew directly into Time in Its Flight."

"I collect far too many things because each one always seems as if it's about to tell me a story. There must be an incredible cacophony in my house that I no longer notice because by now, I've grown used to it."

"I love dolls' houses. When I first began writing novels, I would invariably begin work on another dolls' house. My third novel, Time in Its Flight, must be one of the longest novels in the world, and during the time I worked on it, I created two dolls' houses and populated them with tiny dolls, each wearing Victorian costumes. When I look at the dolls, I still can't believe I had the patience. But there is something about creating a little world as you create a dolls' house. The making of a dolls' house involves enormous concentration and I would work out how I needed to write a novel while I was constructing it."

"I hate deadlines. I'm always sure I'm going to miss them and am convinced that if I miss so much as one deadline, I will never meet another one again. This is because I believe myself to be a basically lazy person. Instead of missing deadlines, I finish everything early and then fume when other people don't tell me what they think of my work at once."

"Life often seems impossible (I can't be the only person who often thinks this), and at such times, the solution is weather. If it is raining or snowing, I watch the rain or the snow fall. If I am stuck when writing, I get out of the house and go to The Point and watch the waves in Lake Michigan. Sometimes simply standing on the back porch and feeling the cold air sting my skin is enough. Weather is a remarkable thing. It is always there and it is always different."

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    1. Date of Birth:
      March 25, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      August 26, 2011
    2. Place of Death:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Chicago, 1961; M.A., University of Chicago, 1963; Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1966
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2012

    I love foudini

    This book is great for animal lovers, cats in particular! Its kind and passionate. It can make you laugh and cry. A perfect book to read while cuddled up with a nice cup of tea!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Long before Dewey there was Foundini..

    Foudini M. Cat writes his biography on the premise of teaching a kitten the ways of the cat world. While growing up, Foudini's attitude towards his owners' dog develops from hostility and jealously to a sincere friendship, one that would make any cat lover look at canines in a new light. Interspersed with Foudini's narrative are fables, psychology, and history with a feline twist. What evolves is a cat's philosophy of life that is both playful and speculative on the human condition.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2008

    I look at my 3 cats a wee bit different.

    Very fun quick read, highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2003

    A book for all cat lovers!

    I loved this book. I recommend it to anyone who owns cats. A fictional? look into the mind of a cat. I can imagine that my cats share some of Foudini's thoughts. A great beach read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2001

    Foudini was a charmer

    This book is totally different than most books. It really wasn't much of a stretch for me. The author explained his point of view to a tee. There was never a time I didn't believe in Foudini.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2000

    If you think a cat lover knows her cat, think again.

    I love cats and I love this book. The cat telling the story is the best way for the story to be told. I was moved to so many different emotions; from humiliation for doing what I thought was right to laughter at human attempts at cat conversation. I am recommending this book to all my cat loving friends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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