Book: Sea of the Patchwork Cats
Author: Carlton Mellick III
Type of Book: Fiction, Bizarro, Novella
Why I Consider This Book Odd: Carlton Mellick III. Eraserhead Press. Bizarro. It should all be clear to you now.
Availability: Published in 2006 by Avant Punk, an imprint of Eraserhead Press, you can get a copy here:
Comments: I wasn’t real happy with the last CM3 book I read. Which surprised me because I generally find all of his works something to talk about, not something to rant about. I had read Sea of the Patchwork Cats a while back, but due to a cat-related emergency (my cat that looks like Hitler lost a leg to injection-site sarcoma and I sold around 2,000 books to finance the surgery), I sold my copy. I recently bought it again, and this book reminded me of how I became so enchanted with the bizarros.
CM3 at his best has an earthy, yet ethereal quality to his prose. This is such a contradiction that in a sense, all I can say is that once you read him, you will understand. The often outre subject matter is filtered through a poetic mind that finds beauty in ugliness, romance in horror, happiness in despair and doesn’t need to use ten words when one will do. His prose style often reminds me of Hemingway with its word conservation. Which for me is a good thing because simple phrases permit me to fill in the blanks, to create visions in my head. I am one of those people who could not care less what the characters in books look like because ultimately, I decide what they look like even when the author tries to tell me. If you are one to prefer lots of descriptives, you may disagree. As always mileage varies, etc.
I am also a fan of this sort of clipped sentence structure, because it harks back to one of the grandfathers of weird, Bukowski, a writer who defiantly refused to set scene. Many bizarros also refuse to set too much scene. The subject matter – an alcoholic, lonely man whose better nature has been masked by the drink – is also an homage, even if unintended. And think of it this way: It requires a boatload of talent to tell the story of a completely different world when practicing word conservation.
Sea of the Patchwork Cats is the story of a man who awakens from a drunken stupor to find that the entire world committed suicide while he was out cold. He takes up residence in a house that eventually is swept out to sea. After spending time adrift in a sinking house, he eventually comes to rest next to a stone house carved to resemble two women sitting back to back. He finds what he thinks are human women encased in ice inside the sinking ship of a house and manages to rescue three, only to find they were really victims of a bizarre porno scheme to breed human women with animals. Once inside the house, the house takes on qualities one would associate with a Danielewski novel. It shifts, it changes internally, but one constant are the calico cats who live inside the house. Eventually the man and one of the animal human hybrids have to come to an unsettling agreement with a spirit in the house to be able to live there.
And as always with a bizarro novel, a plot synopsis does so little good in describing what the book really is, what it is about and what it means. It is both an end of the world novel and a novel of new beginnings. It is a story of entrapment and of freedom. It is a story of horror and of beauty.