As far as University of Edinburgh institutions go, Jordan – more commonly known as Library Cat – is a rather high-ranking one. Instantly recognisable by his black and white coat, which gives him the impression of having been dipped in milk, he has been as much a part of George Square as the David Hume Tower and the Chrystal Macmillian Building. Indeed, there is nary a bleary-eyed student that hasn’t been comforted in the midst of exam season by his appearance in and around the foyer of the University Library. Sadly, Jordan disappeared earlier this year and is believed to have passed on; thankfully, however, his legacy will continue thanks to the delightful new book by Alex Howard.
A PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, Howard has maintained a Facebook page chronicling the thoughts and misadventures of Library Cat for the past three years, garnering a large following during that time. His posts have always been hilarious and witty, serving to perfectly satirise human behaviour and the students of Edinburgh.
Library Cat, the novel that is, is a collection of some of these earlier posts; they have since been refined and expanded upon, allowing for the formation of a cohesive narrative as the reader follows Library Cat across a period of three months. During this time he encounters Freshers, deals with the horrors of Bonfire Night, and endures visits from his cousins, Biblio Chat and ‘Saff London Tom.
These escapades are all wonderfully realised through Howard’s prose, filled with the trademark humour that has made Library Cat’s Facebook page so popular amongst students, both past and present. It is this eye for comedy that has garnered Howard such great acclaim prior to the book’s publication: he was announced as the winner of the Red Cross International Writing Prize, and was a quarter-finalist in the 2012 Scottish Slam Championships. All of these successes mark Library Cat as the triumph it is.
However, the novel contains far more than just comedy. It is fundamentally a story of self-discovery both for Library Cat and the reader. A feline-bildungsroman, Library Cat overcomes his own anxieties as he observes human behaviour and the nature of his own existence. At the same time, the reader is presented with Library Cat’s own observations and conclusions, which are as much about our own condition as that of the fur-coated narrator.
As heart-warming and humorous as Library Cat is though, one cannot help but feel that it is also somewhat bittersweet. As we approach a new academic year there is an overarching awareness that the University of Edinburgh’s Main Library has lost its beloved mascot. Nevertheless, thanks to both this book and Howard’s work online, one can be assured that Library Cat’s adventures will live on for generations to come.
Library Cat: The Observations Of A Thinking Cat, by Alex Howard (Black and White Publishing)
Photo courtesy of the Library Cat Facebook Page