For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 8/28/22, with answers below
A. Connections to European Literature
1. On Names. Like many English novelists, Sōseki Natsume chose funny and sometimes allegorical names for his fiction. Which one of the following is not a character in I Am a Cat?
a. Mr. Sneaze
c. Daft Bamboo
d. Utter Aimlessness
e. Opula Goldfield
f. Lancelot Yore
2. Social Commentary. Similar to Jonathan Swift and other satirists, Sōseki’s feline narrator casts a sardonic eye on his world. Which one of the following is not a target?
d. academics (grad students and professors)
e. the queen
f. Zen Buddhists
g. baseball players
3. Genre and structure. Sōseki’s knowledge of the early English novel allowed him a wealth of options for form, even if his work does not correspond to what is now the dominant paradigm (i.e. nineteenth-century works by Dickens, Tolstoy or Balzac). Which one of the following literary devices is not adopted in I Am a Cat?
a. a tight, chronological sequence of events from birth to adulthood
b. a loose, meandering sequence of observations on topical issues
c. an ironic first-person narrator who recounts dialogues overheard, apparently verbatim
d. a voyeuristic narrator who sees (and tells) things that others overlook or ignore
e. All of the above are used in I Am a Cat.
4. Maxims. As in many other works we’ve read, I Am a Cat is peppered with pithy quotes on life. Which one of the following is not from Sōseki’s novel?
a. “By the infinite flexibility of interpretation one can get away with anything.”
b. “The sad fact is that long-continued, pleasant normality becomes a bore.”
c. “A child needs an English nurse more than a mother.”
d. “One tends only to discover at the very last moment hidden defects in unexpected places.”
B. Japanese Particulars in I Am a Cat
5. Architecture and space. One of the most interesting insights for Western readers is how the traditional Japanese home would have been like to live in. Which one of the following does not characterize the master’s home in I Am a Cat?
a. thin, even translucent rice-paper walls
b. close proximity to neighboring homes
c. elaborate carving in the stone masonry
d. sliding doors
e. includes a little garden
6. Lost in Translation? Some of the humor of I Am a Cat is due to the feline narrator’s mastery of language, but some bits may strike us as odd! Which one of the following is not in I Am a Cat?
a. hecklers insult a person by calling him a “terra cotta badger”
b. a teacher is ridiculed for calling a beverage “Savage Tea”
c. a man is criticized for being “as light and flossy as goldfish food floating around on a pond”
d. an author is praised because he “also wrote importantly upon the seasoning of turnips”
e. All of the above are in I Am a Cat.
7. Food. Which one of the following products or dishes is not mentioned as a delicious treat?
a. snake rice
b. dried bonito
d. vermicelli noodles
C. The Feline Perspective
8. What does purring really mean, according to I Am a Cat?
a. the cat is laughing
b. the cat is anxious
c. the cat is seeking warmth
9. Wisdom to ponder. That cat espouses a Zen attitude which feels refreshing, all the while dishing out acerbic criticisms of men. Which one of these two quotes is spoken by the cat?
a. “Just as cowards grow aggressive under the spur of grog, so may students emboldened by mere numbers into stirring up a riot be regarded as having lost their senses by becoming intoxicated with people.”
b. “Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally, but women feel just as men feel.”
10. What is the cat’s name?
d. He has no name.
1. d. (In the Buddhist tale of the big stone Jizō, pp. 505—510 in the Tuttle edition, the fool named Daft Bamboo walks with “utter aimlessness”—a manner, not a person!)
3. a. or e.
4. c. (That quote is from Karolina Pavlova, A Double Life.)
7. c. (Goulash is described as a culinary favorite in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.)
8. a. When he’s purring, the cat is laughing (possibly at us).
9. a. (That quote, dear reader, is from Jane Eyre.)
Come back next month for our quiz on The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989).