By Franz Kafka and Coleridge Cook
How you feel about this Quirk Classics literary mash-up depends on how you feel about a) Franz Kafka and b) kittens. And honestly, I am not so sure that cats and Kafka mix. Kafka excels in his dark reflections on the human condition, and his work is moody and depressing. We cats don’t reflect on much at all, and we are not moody types. The only time we are depressed is when we are not feeling well… and then we get even more depressed because that almost inevitably means a trip to the vet.
In case you don’t know the original, The Metamorphosis is a novella about Gregor Samsa — a traveling salesman and sole support of his parents and sister — who wakes up one morning to discover he has metamorphosed into a bug. In this mash-up, created by Coleridge Cook (a pseudonym for an award-winning fantasy author), Gregor becomes an adorable kitten, not a bug. The biggest issue with The Meowmorphosis is that changing a drab, milquetoast of a man into a cute kitten is a whimsical idea, and gloomy Kafka has not an ounce of whimsy. But instead of changing the story’s tone and plotline to accommodate this, Cook stays close to his source — so close that it seems sometimes as if he is merely replacing insect attributes with feline ones. The only time he really takes a turn into left field is when he tosses a mash-up of Kafka’s The Trial into the middle of the book before bringing Gregor back home to his inevitable end.
If you are a fan of Kafka (and if you are, Bast help you!), you may find this book interesting and maybe even amusing. If you are a cat person, you will be quite bothered that Cook does not seem to truly understand feline behavior and sometimes he makes Gregor seem like some unholy combination of oversized kitten and beetle. A lot more could have been done with this story if Cook had deviated from the original and created something truly satirical, instead of holding on tightly to the gloom and doom of the novella.
But all is not lost! Cook includes an appendix that explores the life of Kafka — and cats. It’s a very funny bit of satire, and hints at what The Meowmorphosis could have been. The “Discussion Questions” at the end are pretty funny too. Plus the illustrations are surreal and more than a little bit haunting. Lastly, we have the book trailer, which is flat-out great. This is one instance where I have to say the movie really is better than the book.
My review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.