14 thoughts on “CATHERINE MATHEWS: Kittens

  1. You experienced life in Paris, Rome, Tel Aviv etc and this is what you chose to write about? If this indeed is a segment from your life, I hope it continues to haunt you every day. No thanks for sharing.

    1. Some people are too judgmental, and quick to tell you how to live and what to write. This is a lovely piece. Powerful, full of loss and pain and despair, feelings all humans can relate to. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Katherine, I was struck by your lovely use of language — the naturalness of it, so that one is not in the least aware that you are striving for a word count (no extra-seeming words, or ghost of some word missing.) I especially liked the pansy faces, and the economy of “indifferent, he…fetched the bucket.” I thought this piece was powerful and, yes, haunting –and though about a particular incident with kittens, touched on more than that. But then, I am a fan of Mary Oliver, who dared, in a poem I recently read about her dog Percy, to end it with the lines, “This is a poem about Percy./This is a poem about more than Percy./Think about it.”

        I clicked on your name to see what else you’d written, and wanted to let you know that I also liked “loss” very much. Again, such economy! Portrait of relationships with parent/step-parent, too. When I, as a young woman, wrote letters home from the PRC, I never thought to say, “save them.” I assumed. I could feel, in your words, how I would have felt if my parents had not done so.

        Hope to read more from you,
        Jennifer Freed

  2. Some people are lucky to employ such a multi-task gardener. If I had a gardener (and I don’t) I would have to do this dirty job by myself…

  3. Not being afraid to pour petrol onto a smouldering fire, here goes.

    I’ve complimented others on their writing only to be appalled later after finding out the writing was based on a true story. Whether straight fiction, non-fiction or fictionalised accounts of true stories writing will always be understood/enjoyed differently because of such knowledge, e.g. something I might find appalling if it was non-fiction could be quite interesting and thought provoking if it was fiction.

    As a work of non-fiction the writer was detached from the suffering of innocents in the past and thus she is obviously haunted as one probably should be by what he/she had done. Jeff seems to have picked up on “She is now living in Northern Virginia and writing about her life.” reference in her BIO, which seems to suggest it is a true story. There has been no denial of this to date.

    It reminds me of the saying, “Sometimes bad people do good things and sometimes good people do bad things. There seems to be a lot of regret here in the way she painted the kittens as cute and innocent and herself as the heartless monster. I can only imagine that a bad person would not show this kind of regret (let alone announce it to the world), but a good person might, which doesn’t make it right of course, or it might be the case of a bad person who has changed over the years and is now a better person because of the reflection on the evil he/she has done. It is not necessary for anyone to judge the writer as she has done a good job of this herself. For me, I am only interested in speculating on possible reasons why someone might confess like this, especially in this type of forum.

    As a work of fiction, if that is what it is, or a fictionalised account of something she might have heard about, then it sits more powerfully than being a confession as it would naturally deflect attention away from the writer and onto the story itself. It would be hard to believe that anyone has lived their life without any regrets, or a metaphor perhaps of how callous/cruel people can be.

    The problem is one of how to deal with the perpetrator if the story is a factual recount of what happened. Should the perpetrator be admired for his/her prose or demonised for his/her actions? ‘A tricky one at best’

    This leads me back to a previous discussion which I guess now shows that for some people it certainly makes a difference knowing if a tale is based on a true story or not. I for one would certainly like to see stories tagged as such. Then I can decide between reading for its entertainment value or reading something that might be far more distasteful.

    For example, I would not want to read about the regrets of a serial killer or a gas chamber attendant at Auschwitz no matter how beautiful the prose that described children dying was, but maybe that’s just me. Two of the others who commented above however seem to have indicated that everything and anything is fair game, which escapes me. At the very least they have chosen style over content or can’t distinguish between fact and fantasy, which is a little disturbing. Of course child welfare and animal welfare are different otherwise we’d all be vegetarians, but the central idea is the same.

    There is also the question of writing from the perpetrator’s point of view versus that of the victim. In this case for the story to be told it had to come from the perpetrator or someone close to the perpetrator.

    Although I don’t have an argument with this type of genre existing (horses for courses and all that) it is obvious from the above that it is a form I would not choose to read had it been tagged for example, ‘A non-fiction author’s confession of animal cruelty’ perhaps. At least I would have been forewarned and only have myself to blame for reading it. This is probably why books are tagged/separated into different genres in libraries so we can easily find the ones that interest us and avoid the ones that don’t.

    I would like to hear the author’s view on this.

    1. Connell – my 50-word take on the subject:

      The woman and her gardener, the kitten killers, lie mouth’s gagged with cloth torn from their clothing, nostrils covered with the still-wet bodies of their victims. I watched their cheeks turn pink then pale, as setting suns following a storm. Their protest cries lacked the dispassionate tone of their deed.

      1. Or how about this?

        I watch my gardener, one kitten at a time, holding them under water until their still bodies sink, lungs filled with water, eyes closed as the day they were born. My daughter watches from behind my skirt and finally asks, “Can I do one?” I hand her the last kitten.

  4. this seems to have stirred up quite a lot of controversy … it’s an interesting fact that many people are more worked up about descriptions of the killing of kittens than they are about descriptions of the killing of people … what the purpose of writing immensely long reviews is, i don’t know … i liked the story because it was striking and different … criticisms that the writing portrayed a heinous act are not legitimate.

  5. OK, bring it on.

    Jeff, if I ever want to incite a riot, you’re the first one I’d call. I think your disgust holds no bounds and I share the rage. I’m just trying to be diplomatic here, but it’s bloody hard. As I said it is not a genre I would choose to read, although others can read what they want like those docos on TV that show real crimes and have interviews with the perpetrators about what they did. It is just a sign of how sick society has become when this type of thing becomes entertainment, but at the same time it appears to be completely legitimate/legal, however it’s not for me. My concern would be crimes that have not come before the law.

    Peter L. welcome to the circus. Firstly if no one got worked up about killing kittens (appears to be non-fiction in this case, no denial as yet), then we might actually see our first 50 word story depicting an actual murder written by the murderer in the not too distant future. Would that be striking and different enough for you? Is that what we want? Where do we draw the line? Some would perhaps judge it on prose alone, but not me. If I write about murder, it is pure fiction.

    “what the purpose of writing immensely long reviews is, i don’t know” Probably the fact that I have the flu and writing is better than sitting in front of the TV all day, although I have to admit I’ve done this before.

    “criticisms that the writing portrayed a heinous act are not legitimate.” I’m going to be very kind here with a please explain, so think very carefully before you reply.

  6. I don’t think we’re generating much value by the conversation at this point. Let’s take a step back from the hyperbole.

    The story is not celebrating the killing of kittens, quite the opposite. I’m sure it’s also far from the most potentially offensive thing that’s been posted on the site, whether it’s a true story or not.

    I’d prefer not to see this kind of aggression towards authors on the site, especially when it’s based on assumptions and interpretations.

  7. I also agree that there is little value to continue this conversation here. I suppose if anyone reasonably suspects a crime has been committed, they should take their suspicions directly to the relevant authorities and not debate them as it is probably not an area many of us would have much expertise in.

    For my part I strongly agree that the story does not celebrate the killing of kittens. There was a lot of regret shown in this piece. As for the other authors my intention was never to be aggressive, I would prefer the term strongly persuasive or strident. The petrol comment was my acknowledgement that whatever I wrote would heat up this debate. The ‘Bring it on’ comment was my resignation to the fact that I had a real challenge on my hands. With Peter L’s comments, I did back off on his last comment as it left him too exposed and would not have been very conducive or sensitive to continue without him carefully supporting his comments.

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