Making the Cat Laugh, first published in 1995, is a collection of columns from The Listener, The Times and Woman’s Journal. By contrast with Eats, Shoots & Leaves, this book had quite abysmal timing. They now deny this, but my publishers did argue with me when I suggested, in 1995, that there might be quite a big market for funny books about single women in their thirties. Oh well. Making the Cat Laugh was published in a low-key way, sold out quickly and that was that. And a year or so later, along came the wonderful Bridget Jones, with the result that, for the next ten years, any funny book by a woman that wasn’t about a single woman in her thirties (such as my own Going Loco) was seen to be insanely out of step, and was marketed as chick-lit regardless.
I hasten to say that there is no comparison in regard to subject matter between Bridget Jones’s Diary and Making the Cat Laugh. The humour of the books is different, as is the focus of the agony. While Bridget Jones suffers to get the course of romance to run smooth, I make half-baked attempts at self-amusement, and the only love interest is Buster the cat. I wrote most of these columns in a surge of white-hot energy after my father died (suddenly) and my boyfriend moved out (not before time), and the last thing on my mind was finding a partner: I was much more interested in the mechanics of survival. I revelled in singledom. I embraced it. I was excited by it. And the cats just had to put up with it.
By the way, I used to assure people that “there isn’t too much about cats in Making the Cat Laugh, but when I looked at it properly again I was forced to admit that cats are, well, something of a running theme. This tendency did not go unnoticed when they first appeared in the newspaper, either. When I was writing my column in The Times, Private Eye ran a little squib “The Times 40 Million Years Ago” which included two or three other columnists who had evidently outstayed their welcome, writing the same old stuff even in the Ice Age, and it included “Lynne Truss: How My Sabre-Toothed Tiger is Coping”.
I was just about to write that, unusually, no fabulous actor had recorded this for BBC Audio, unabridged, when I remembered something quite important: I did it myself.
NB – BBC audio for this book is a library edition only