bioephemera

Ok, what are the people at Quirk Books on?

I have to say, I love the cover of the book, and the typographical trailer is cute – but isn’t this just blatant meme abuse?

Quirk explains The Meowmorphosis thus. . .

“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten.” Thus begins The Meowmorphosis–a bold, startling, and fuzzy-wuzzy new edition of Franz Kafka’s classic nightmare tale, from the publishers of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! Meet Gregor Samsa, a humble young man who works as a fabric salesman to support his parents and sister. His life goes strangely awry when he wakes up late for work and finds that, inexplicably, he is now a man-sized baby kitten. His family freaks out: Yes, their son is OMG so cute, but what good is cute when there are bills piling up? And how can he expect them to serve him meals every day? If Gregor is to survive this bizarre, bewhiskered ordeal, he’ll have to achieve what he never could before–escape from his parents’ house. Complete with haunting illustrations and a provocative biographical exposé of Kafka’s own secret feline life, The Meowmorphosis will take you on a journey deep into the tortured soul of the domestic tabby.

So I feel like A) the Groupon writers and Quirk’s writers are the same people, and B) it’s only a matter of time before someone outs “Coleridge Cook,” the “beloved fantasy novelist and blogger” who pseudonymously joins Kafka as author on The Meowmorphosis, and says WHAT THE HECK WERE YOU THINKING!?

Full disclosure: I haven’t had the time to read The Meowmorphosis myself. So for all I know, it’s awesome. I skimmed the reviews on the Amazon product page, and I’m so glad I did: this is one of the most amusing reviews I’ve ever seen. The befuddled reviewer (who has written many other reviews, and appears to be legit/serious) complains:

Our main character is a adorable kitten. He leaves his room & when he is shoved back in his room he can barely fit through the door. His big round belly is too big to fit through the door – yet he walked out of the room just fine. Not only that but since when do kittens have gigantic round bellies? I tend to surround myself with kittens as much as possible & though their bellies can be rounded, they are not out of proportion with the general size of the kitten. Anyway, while being pushed & shoved through the door our poor giant kitten had his side scraped up & he was sore. On top of that he has tiny little legs out of proportion with his body. I had no idea kittens had tiny little legs. . .

Next when our giant kitten who can fit under a couch but not through a doorway but who can jump out a window, goes outside no one screams & yells in terror of the giant kitten creature. . . .

There are just so many examples where he is a huge kitten, yet is he? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. On top of that the kitten character is pathetic & you have no sympathy for such a looser of his own making. Note, I gather that is the personality of the original character making me think I don’t want to read the original.

Um, yeah, I agree you don’t want to read the original. (I still can’t believe that’s a genuine review – but if it’s not, props to the humorist who wrote it.)

This review captures (delightfully) all that is awkward and potentially disastrous about Quirk books’ mashup strategy. The majority of people who “get it” will be those who were assigned to read Kafka in school, most of whom won’t really have liked Kafka (or so I assume without evidence, because he’s, well, Kafka). The Metamorphosis is not a “beloved book” on the order of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, trailing a fan base possessing infinite appetite for reboots, and a substantial mass market name recognition quotient. People who never read Kafka and are seeking a cuddly kitten fix will be, like this reviewer, all “what the heck?” Kafka by any other name = a bunch of continuity errors and poor characterization.

On some level, part of the cachet of reading The Meowmorphosis must be a subtext like, “Yeah, I’ve studied Kafka, and I am well-versed in memes, and I don’t take any of it seriously – lo, I am a subgroup of ironic hipster. I win.” But though Kafka’s too literary to be mass market, I don’t think he’s obscure or scarce enough to generate hipster cred. It’s not like “A Canticle for Leibowitz starring Ke$ha” or “Thomas Kuhn’s Tumblr feed” or hacking a TRS-80 emulator onto your iPad, etc. – all projects with questionable merit, but would arguably prove your chops as a connoisseur of the obscure. You can’t make hipster cred out of high school homework* – at least I don’t think so. And Kafka was homework to a lot of people.

*Okay, wait: I’d think I’d really dig a Meowmorphosis Trapper Keeper. Maybe you can mix high school homework and hipster cred. . . . especially if Gregor Samsa was riding a unicorn across some kind of laser grid! Oh, someone in the lowbrow art movement has to have made that already. I’ll go look!

No! The first link in my search took me to a blog featuring lots of portraits of a nude President Obama riding unicorns. Darn you, internetz. . .