When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?

When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me? Cover

When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?

Montaigne and Being in Touch with Life

By Saul Frampton

Pantheon, Hardcover, 9780375424717, 320pp.

Publication Date: March 15, 2011

Description

“When I dance, I dance; when I sleep, I sleep. And when I
am walking alone in a beautiful orchard, if my thoughts
are sometimes preoccupied elsewhere, the rest of the time I
bring them back to the walk, to the orchard, to the sweetness
of this solitude, and to me.”
Montaigne
 
In the year 1570, at the age of thirty-seven, Michel de Montaigne gave up his job as a magistrate and retired to his château to brood on his own private grief—the deaths of his best friend, his father, his brother, and his firstborn child. On the ceiling of his library he inscribed a phrase from the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius: “There is no new pleasure to be gained by living longer.”
 
But finding his mind agitated rather than settled by this idleness, Montaigne began to write, giving birth to the Essays—short prose explorations of an amazingly wide range of subjects. And gradually, over the course of his writing, Montaigne rejected his stoical pessimism and turned from a philosophy of death to a philosophy of life. He erased Lucretius’s melancholy fatalism and began to embrace the exuberant vitality of living, finding an antidote to death in the most unlikely places—the touch of a hand, the smell of his doublet, the playfulness of his cat, and the flavor of his wine.
 
Saul Frampton offers a celebration of perhaps the most enjoyable and yet profound of all Renaissance writers, whose essays went on to have a huge impact on figures as diverse as Shakespeare, Emerson, and Orson Welles, and whose thoughts, even today, offer a guide and unprecedented insight into the simple matter of being alive.



About the Author

Saul Frampton studied English and philosophy at the University of East Anglia, wrote a doctorate on Renaissance literature at Oxford, and was a research fellow at Cambridge. He lives in Hove on the Sussex coast.



Praise For When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?

“Excellent . . . Montaigne celebrates life in all its glorious messiness, while reminding us that nothing matters more than human connectedness and kindness to people and animals. An endlessly digressive writer, Montaigne is as much raconteur as moralist, and his book offers some of the best after-dinner conversation in the world . . . You can never be sure what this French humanist will say next . . . Frampton approaches Montaigne from unexpected tangents . . . Where [he] excels is in his sharply intelligent and sharply phrased insights . . . [An] elegant work.”
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
 
“Winning . . . Perceptive . . . Frampton tells the story of how history, culture, and personal genius conspired to create a new literary genre—and a literary master for the ages . . . Although they were first published more than four centuries ago, Montaigne’s essays can seem as topical as the morning newspaper. As more than one admirer has discovered, Montaigne’s essential gift—the art of conversation rendered on the page—is a timeless one.”
—Danny Heitman, The Christian Science Monitor
 
“Montaigne’s essays delight in human sensuality, uniqueness, even unpredictability. Though [his] early essays were about war, the later essays are playful, uninhibited, and in parts painfully intimate (sexual dysfunction; the passing of kidney stones, etc.). Frampton, in his lighthearted book, explores the shift in Montaigne’s thinking . . . [He] shows how Montaigne’s later essays are full of fascination and observation and how he approaches practical issues—his health, his political obligations, his role as a winemaker—with an enviable equanimity.”
—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
 
“Frampton offers a celebration of perhaps the most enjoyable and yet profound of all Renaissance writers, whose essays went on to have a huge impact on figures as diverse as Shakespeare, Emerson and Orson Welles, and whose thoughts, even today, offer a guide and unprecedented insight into the simple matter of being alive.”
The Washington Times
 
“[An] inventive exploration . . . [This book] attest[s] to the enduring fascination of [Montaigne’s] pieces: The sensibility behind them is at once centuries old and curiously modern.”
—Kwame Appiah, Slate
 
“Scholarly, but not pedantic, this is a book to be savored over time. As with Montaigne’s essays, it is one which can be opened and read at any point without interrupting its flow. . . . Frampton’s extensive knowledge of literary history is evident.”
—Rosemary Repeta, The Post and Courier
 
“The skeptical and humane French nobleman has always had his admirers, and Frampton’s learned, subtle, and engaging book shows why.”
—Brian Bethune, Maclean’s
 
“In Montaigne’s intense self-absorption, Frampton discerns the rich literary fruit of a stunning midlife volte-face . . . Frampton underscores the essential humaneness of Montaigne’s life . . . Recognizing the twenty-first century’s own need for advocates of life-affirming tolerance, readers will embrace this insightful portrait.”
—Bryce Christensen, Booklist (starred review)
 
“With deceptive casualness, Frampton renders a rigorous history of ideas in this engaging account of the life and the work of Michel de Montaigne . . . His extraordinary achievement is in conveying—and inviting the reader to commune with—Montaigne’s unique sensibility and his take on death, sex, travel, friendship, kidney stones, the human thumb, and above all, ‘the power of the ordinary and the unremarkable, the value of the here-and-now.’ . . . This scholarly romp through the Renaissance is a jewel.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Ingenious . . . Passionately written and full to bursting with digressions and anecdotes, Frampton’s book does an excellent job of bringing Montaigne and his historical context to life. It is this vivid evocation of the time that emerges as the book’s greatest strength. We see how the philosopher’s celebration of daily life . . . went against not only the dominant philosophical currents of the day but also the violent upheavals of 16th-century France. What comes through the strongest is an inspiring sense of the philosopher’s remarkable independence of thought and enduring relevance.”
—Edward King, The Sunday Times (London)
 
“One of the best books I have read on Montaigne . . . Frampton argues that to read Montaigne is ‘to touch base with oneself’ and to learn how to act within our capacities, to accept and even to savour them . . . He demonstrates that the more Montaigne observed ordinary life, the more remarkable he found it, and the more he felt impelled to plunge back into its mess . . . Four centuries on, Montaigne still speaks to us.”
—Nicholas Shakespeare, The Daily Telegraph (London)

“[Frampton has] written an introduction to Montaigne’s great work as well as setting it in historical context, showing how it influenced important writers, such as Shakespeare. Frampton’s book stands as a work in its own right and should encourage anyone unfamiliar with Montaigne to read the original.”
—Phil Bloomfield, The Oxford Times (UK)