Krazy Kat: A Novel in Five Panels, by Jay Cantor – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

5fee024128a0dab587e09010.LKrazy Kat: A Novel in Five Panels, by Jay Cantor. Illustrated by George Herriman.
NYC, A. A. Knopf, January 1988, hardcover $16.95 ([x] + 245 + [viii] pages).

The reviews for this unauthorized (since it was written long after Herriman’s death) sequel to George Herriman’s classic Krazy Kat comic strip, all praise how imaginative it is. But they use terminology like “an elaborate intellectual game”, “post-narrative techniques”, “Psychoanalysis, Hollywood, radical politics, television, popular and high art are all grist for Cantor’s satirical mill”, “an X-rated sort-of-sequel to the comic strip”, and “simultaneously maddening, shocking, funny and quite disturbing.” It is, in short, an absurdist, post-modernist novel that carries the cast of the gentle (despite Ignatz’s constant bopping of Krazy’s bean with a brick), isolated Kokonino Kounty into the full complexity of modern civilization.

Cartoonist George Herriman died on April 25, 1944. The Alamogordo test explosion of the atomic bomb was on July 16, 1945. Despite the bomb blast being in the wrong state and over a year later, it is Cantor’s postulate that it was Krazy Kat’s traumatization by the atomic bomb that was responsible for the comic strip’s disappearance.

“Krazy’s unexpected retirement has put the entire cast out of work: KWAKK WAKK, the gossipy duck who sang out Coconino’s dirty linen, has no one to tattle on. JOE STORK, a lean decent creature who brought the babies and the mail from Outside, is a nearly dead letter man, for fickle fans no longer want to get in touch. DON KIYOTI, native-born long-eared snob, lacks an audience to lord it over. BEAU KOO JACK, the black rabbit of thumping paws, finds fancy trade falling off at his grocery store. KOLIN KELLEY, who fired the bricks that Ignatz threw, cleans and recleans his cold kiln, knowing that if Krazy never works again he is cursed king of useless rocks. And MRS. MICE, Ignatz’s big-footed spouse, with MILTON, MARSHALL and IRVING, her Joe-delivered progeny, bicker pointlessly, Dad out of work and time on their hands.

Why did Krazy, they wonder, suddenly shy from the spotlight? And if only she would work again …” (p. x)

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