Saturday, February 28, 2015

Golden Advice: Musings on Aldous Huxley's Essay "Sermons in Cats"

Hi folks, this is my February series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose. This week's thoughts are my musings on Aldous Huxley's essay: "Sermons in Cats."

I've had author crush on Aldous Huxley since my teens. He wrote books like Brave New World. I read it, and we became best friends. He wrote screenplays: Pride and Prejudice (1940)and Jane Eyre (1944). He wrote essays, poems, travel journals, and even (gasp) a children's book. (You are making me look lame, bestie.)

This week I'm musing about his essay "Sermons in Cats." A young author once asked Huxley how to become a novelist. Huxley encouraged the young author to buy lots of paper, a pen, ink, and write. The young author was not satisfied with this answer and begged Huxley for his writing formula. Huxley then urged the young writer to go to a fancy university and study writing. The young author was still unsatisfied and asked Huxley "did he keep a notebook or a journal," did he jot things on napkins or did use cross indexed cards, did he read novels exclusively or be well read across all subjects, and more questions.

Finally Huxley had enough and he offered this: "My young friend," I said, "if you want to be a psychological novelist and write about human beings, the best thing you can do is to keep a pair of cats."

The young writer left disconsolate. He wanted some magic formula, but Huxley put some heavy truth on the table instead. What makes stories interesting is when we look under the veneer of "manners, conventions, traditions of thought and feeling." Cats are malcontents. Imagine the marriage of two Siamese cats. They are at each other throats and fur flies. It's no fairy tale. Watching the behavior of cats will keep you from banality and untruths that parade as true relationships.

I have two cats and they are true characters. They are friends one minute and sinking in fangs in the next. Those twitching tails indicate perverse plans in the future. They are also affectionate, nuzzling and rubbing, and then out of nowhere, biting. My cats will moan like the world is coming to an end at night outside my door, and then purr like motorboats when I let them in, and then scratch me a few seconds later. Yes, Huxley has something here. Some big sermons for writers are hidden in the lives of cats.
I hope that this series helps you no your journey. I will be back next week with my Lucky March series.

Here is a doodle for you:






A quote for your pocket: 

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which mean never losing your enthusiasm. Aldous Huxley

4 comments:

Vijaya said...

I love this, Molly! It's purrrrfect. I am down to one old cat now. I am sad to say at times we seem to be plotting each other's demise. Other times we are all love. I am part-feline.

Debbie Austin said...

Molly, what a great post! Unfortunately, I am allergic to cats, although I am fascinated by them. What's even more interesting to me is the interaction between cats and dogs. My own dog, a black lab who wants to be friends with everyone, tried to make friends with a cat once and got a good nose-whacking for her efforts. I will remember this post when I am plotting my next story. Cheers!

Molly/Cece said...

Hi Vijaya, I totally understand that cat/human relationship. I'm not part feline, but I think one of my cats thinks he is part human.

Molly/Cece said...

Hi Debbie, I think there are sermons in dogs too! And goats, gerbils, hamsters, sheep, horses... I do think sometimes we can find ourselves more clearly in a pet than in a mirror. Cheers to you too!