One of the more delightful and subversive books of this year has to be “The Cats of Copenhagen” by James Joyce and illustrated by Michigan artist Casey Sorrow. Joyce, in one of his lighter moments, wrote a letter to his grandson Stephen James Joyce in 1936 which proclaimed “Alas, I cannot send you a Copenhagen cat because there are no cats in Copenhagen.” The letter followed a “cat” sent earlier in the summer to his grandson that was filled with candy.
Clearly Joyce and his grandson had a special relationship which has an underpinning of irony and humor. Joyce’s recently discovered “cats letter” also contains his trademark anti-authoritanarian philosophy which has been ably transferred to literary sight gags by the equally talented artist Casey Sorrow. Sorrow has masterfully stepped inside Joyce’s head and created some devilish cartoons to represent the thoughts of Joyce. Just one example: a ruffian cat smoking a “big danish cigar” while sipping buttermilk is a perfect piece tying together both Joyce’s and Sorrow’s unusual way of seeing the world.
Sorrow is known (but will be better known now) for his often off-kilter interpretations of life. While he was attending Michigan State University, he and fellow cartoonist-artist Eric Milikin, created the cartoon strip Fetus X for the Michigan State News before the college newspaper caved to censorship demands and cancelled it.
The “Cats” book is the first time the letter has been printed in the United States and the illustrations lend themselves to all types of cross promotion. I mean who wouldnt want to wear a t-shirt illustrated with Joyce and a suitcase stuffed with a cat?