Sarton; 'The Fur Person' Explores Cats and People

THE FUR PERSON, by May Sarton, Rinechart and company, 106 pages, $2.75.

If The Fur Person is not like any children's book you have ever read, that may be because it isn't a children's book. It is an adult's biography of a cat who became her pet and then her friend. May Sarton knows how to tell an adult about a cat. The usual hurdles of condescension and over-indulgence cause her no trouble. And she conspicuously avoids the Walt Disney custom of fastening human personalities onto animals. And that, in fact, is what the book is about.

The hero of The Fur Person does not start by being a Fur Person. He is first a stray who considers himself Cat About Town. Then he decides to be a Gentleman Cat and find a home. Though his first attempts are discouraging, he perseveres; and his fortunes are reflected in his changing names: Nice Kitty, Tom Jones, Jones, Terrible Jones, Gentle Cat, Cat of Peace, Glorious Jones, Official Philosopher, and, finally, Fur Person.

The Human Fur

Yet he was Fur Person in a way to start with, partly cat and partly humans, because Miss Sarton's imagination allows her to take his viewpoint from the start. She knows that though cats can come to have human characteristics by living with people, still cats have their dignity, which human people must regard, especially those who dare write books about cats. Her point seems to be that it's easier for her to be a cat lover than for a cat to be a lover of people.

As Miss Sarton shows in a lovely way at the end, Fur Person is a cat who becomes partly a person. But other cats don't. She can only write as she does, inevitably, about a Fur Person. She doesn't pretend to be writing about just a cat. That, she might agree, would be harder.

A Cat for Adults

Miss Sarton means only to write about a Fur Person who is, the blurb tells us, her own cat. It is, then, a charming book that cares for the prodigious cat dignity it describes so well. But it isn't a children's book, first because the words are too big, and also because the intricate varieties of cat thought and the comments on the human variety of life seem meant for adult ears. Though these might bore children, The Fur Person is an uncommonly charming book for grown-ups.