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December 5, 2008


Vicki Myron – ISBN – 9780446407410

This is a fetching tale (and a current mega-best seller) about a tough little kitten, stuffed into the book return of a local library and rescued the following morning nearly frozen to death. He managed to survive and became the mascot of that library, surviving within its walls for 18 years. During that time Dewey became an inspiration to the library staff and patrons, a model of survival for the entire town of Spencer, Iowa, and world famous (though I dmit I’d never heard about him.)

Initially, one is drawn into the story by the very nature of survival (town and cat.) It is an interestingly told tale, written by Bret Witter as shared with him by Ms. Myron, the librarian who salvaged the kitten and became his best friend for life. As well there are poignant insights into small town and farm life . . . and death. "Corn country," especially, is being run over by commercial, mega-farms. Towns are being razed to expand farming. People are forced to move on, altering that life forever. (All that is left of the author's early life is "four feet of driveway" leading to a cornfield!)

Problem is that about a third of the way thru the book begins to die, and while it improves toward the end it never fully recovers.

I was reminded of a book, written in the mid ‘70’s by Robert Ardrey: The Hunting Hypothesis. He wove a really good tale, giving explicit examples of animal behavior corroborating his hypothesis, and then went on, and on . . . and on, example after example. He'd made his point, wrote a fascinating book, but he just couldn’t quit. As I’ve observed in other reviews, there are simply “too many notes.”

Same here. There are so many anecdotes, and there is so much about the librarian/rescuer and her life story that one begins to wonder whether the tract is about the the cat, or if it was also autobiographical of the savior . . . and how long it’ll be until it’s over. It drags.

For those interested it is really both soul snagging and informative. If inclined, I’d suggest that one read the first third or so, skim or skip the middle, and go to the end.

Being an inveterate capitalist, however, I just have to note that one of the side stories mentions—indeed emphasizes—a basic tenant of the capitalist system. When the town was dying, as have so many remote farming communities, Wal-Mart decided to rescue it. The townsfolk were up in arms, with the principal surviving retailers unwilling to “turn over what they had invested in . . . to a national competitor.”

A hired consultant advised that “Wal-Mart will be the best thing ever to happen to the businesses in Spencer. If you try to compete with them you will lose. But if you find a niche they aren’t serving . . . you will win. Why? Because Wal-Mart will bring many more customers to town. It’s that simple.”

It did. They did, and proved the consultant right. The downtown business increased exponentially, as Spencer became the regional retail town. So there!

Posted by respeto at December 5, 2008 12:17 PM