A rousing and original debut story collection that probes the erotic, emotional, and intellectual lives of elder women, CAT BRUSHING will be published in the author’s 80th year.
CAT BRUSHING, the provocative debut by Jane Campbell, vigorously explores the sensual worlds of thirteen older women, unearthing their passions, libidinal appetites, integrity, and sense of self as they fight against prevalent misconceptions and stereotypes of the aging.
Written in spikey, incisive prose, this alluring cast of characters overcomes the notion that elder women’s behavior must be in some way monitored and controlled. Susan falls in love with her beautiful young caregiver Miffy, and embarks on an intense emotional relationship within the confines of her nursing home. Linda seeks out her former lover, Malik, despite having left him years ago to return to her settled marriage to Bill. Daisy, who, by a curious stroke of fate, finds herself at the funeral of her former boyfriend, Tim, relives their early life together, his betrayal of her and the anguish of that time. Martha, mourning her small dog whom she believes has been killed by the home care staff, works out how to manage a robot designed to record her behavior, and get her revenge. And the narrator of the title story, “Cat Brushing,” communes with her elegant, soft Siamese, reflecting on the sexual pleasures of her past.
The timeless wisdom and dark wit of debut writer Jane Campbell inspires and challenges, shocks and comforts as she examines the inner lives of women who fight to lead the rest of their lives on their own terms.
Campbell debuts at 80 with an accomplished collection centering the emotional and psychological lives of the elderly, delivering astute observations and sharp critiques, and restoring agency to characters who are routinely robbed of it. Foregrounding sexuality, "Susan and Miffy" depicts an 86-year-old woman as she develops an attraction to her younger caretaker. ("The lust of an old man is disgusting but the lust of an old woman is worse. Everyone knows that," goes the opening line.) In the title story, the narrator contemplates the dispossession "of rights, of respect, of desire" while fearing her son is going to take away her beloved cat. Some of the stories take on a sci-fi tinge, as in "Schopenhauer and I," wherein a character is given a robot to ward off loneliness and help her with daily tasks and surveil her every move. While the plots are sometimes too heavily reliant on coincidence, as in "Lacrimae Rerum," when a woman happens upon her long-ago ex-boyfriend's funeral, and occasionally employ choppy dialogue ("I am leaving you. Our relationship is over. I am in love with Hils. I thought you knew. Everyone else knows"), Campbell succeeds in portraying the characters' complex inner lives. Ripe with sensuality, this is full of vivid portraits.)