Friday, June 03, 2011

Fiction: The Meowmorphosis by Franz Kafka and Coleridge Cook

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka was first published in 1915. It is arguably one of the most important and seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century. The Meowmorphosis (Quirk) is, clearly, not that book.

Like all trendy things, the current literary mash-up rage started with a deliciously sublime idea -- in this case 2009’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- and has since been becoming increasingly stretched and ridiculous in the time between. In some cases, ridiculous has been good and interesting, even thought-provoking on occasion. Though author Coleridge Cook (A “beloved fantasy novelist” writing under a different name. Hmmmm.) does a credible job with questionable material, for me The Meowmorphosis never quite gets there.
One morning as Gregor Samsa was waking un for an anxious dream, he discovered he had been changed into an adorable kitten.
In this way The Meowmorphosis is like a reverse mash-up. In the most common of the literary mash-ups, we begin with a spiritually calm literary work (say Pride and Prejudice) and then stir in an element of horror. (Zombies count.) In Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a man awakes to discover he’s become an insect. Scary stuff. In this reworking, a man awakes to a softer reality. For a while.

There is a second twist. Kafka’s Metamorphosis is narrow in scope: the novella takes place entirely in the home Gregor shares with his parents. But partway through The Meowmorphosis, awakened kitty Gregor escapes into the streets of Prague, where he encounters characters from other Kafka works. This is a pleasing twist on the original: one might even say Kakfaesque. (Or, at least, Kafkaish.)

Though the idea behind The Meowmorphosis is original -- one might even say clever -- I can’t help but think things have been pushed a little too far here. And what is too far? There’s sizzle here, but I’m not so sure about the steak. ◊

Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area, where he works in the high-tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science-fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.

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