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When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?: Montaigne and Being in Touch with Life Paperback – April 17, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307278654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307278654
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,226,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With deceptive casualness, Frampton, assistant editor of the London Review of Books, renders a rigorous history of ideas in this engaging account of the life and the work of Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592). After enduring in short succession the deaths of his daughter; father; best friend; and brother, "killed absurdly, tragically, by the blow from a tennis ball," Montaigne retreated to his tower library, intending to write and prepare himself for his own death. Out of this dismal exercise came Les Essais, his eccentric and invaluable essays on his milieu, philosophy, and preoccupations. Frampton tucks a good deal of biography into his tour of the evolution of the essays and the events that inspired them—but his extraordinary achievement is in conveying—and inviting the reader to commune with—Montaigne's unique sensibility and his take on death, sex, travel, friendship, kidney stones, the human thumb, and above all, "the power of the ordinary and the unremarkable, the value of the here-and-now." This scholarly romp through the Renaissance is a jewel. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Excellent. . . . Frampton excels is in his sharply intelligent and sharply phrased insights. . . . An elegant work.”
The Washington Post

“Winning. . . . Perceptive. . . . Frampton tells the story of how history, culture, and personal genius conspired to create a new literary genre—and a literary master for the ages.”
The Christian Science Monitor

“An inventive exploration. . . . [This book] attests to the enduring fascination of Montaigne’s pieces: The sensibility behind them is at once centuries old and curiously modern.”
Slate
 
“There can be no better introduction to Montaigne.”
The Washington Times

“Although they were first published more than four centuries ago, Montaigne’s essays can seem as topical as the morning newspaper. As more than one admirer has discovered, Montaigne’s essential gift—the art of conversation rendered on the page—is a timeless one.”
The Christian Science Monitor
 
“Montaigne’s essays delight in human sensuality, uniqueness, even unpredictability. Though [his] early essays were about war, the later essays are playful, uninhibited, and in parts painfully intimate (sexual dysfunction; the passing of kidney stones, etc.). Frampton, in his lighthearted book, explores the shift in Montaigne’s thinking. . . . [He] shows how Montaigne’s later essays are full of fascination and observation and how he approaches practical issues—his health, his political obligations, his role as a winemaker—with an enviable equanimity.”
Los Angeles Times
 
“Frampton offers a celebration of perhaps the most enjoyable and yet profound of all Renaissance writers, whose essays went on to have a huge impact on figures as diverse as Shakespeare, Emerson and Orson Welles, and whose thoughts, even today, offer a guide and unprecedented insight into the simple matter of being alive.”
The Washington Times
 
“Scholarly, but not pedantic, this is a book to be savored over time. As with Montaigne’s essays, it is one which can be opened and read at any point without interrupting its flow. . . . Frampton’s extensive knowledge of literary history is evident.”
The Post and Courier
 
“With deceptive casualness, Frampton renders a rigorous history of ideas in this engaging account of the life and the work of Michel de Montaigne. . . . His extraordinary achievement is in conveying—and inviting the reader to commune with—Montaigne’s unique sensibility and his take on death, sex, travel, friendship, kidney stones, the human thumb, and above all, ‘the power of the ordinary and the unremarkable, the value of the here-and-now.’ . . . This scholarly romp through the Renaissance is a jewel.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“The skeptical and humane French nobleman has always had his admirers, and Frampton’s learned, subtle, and engaging book shows why.”
Maclean’s
 
“Ingenious. . . . Passionately written and full to bursting with digressions and anecdotes, Frampton’s book does an excellent job of bringing Montaigne and his historical context to life. It is this vivid evocation of the time that emerges as the book’s greatest strength. We see how the philosopher’s celebration of daily life . . . went against not only the dominant philosophical currents of the day but also the violent upheavals of 16th-century France. What comes through the strongest is an inspiring sense of the philosopher’s remarkable independence of thought and enduring relevance.”
The Sunday Times (London)
 
“In Montaigne’s intense self-absorption, Frampton discerns the rich literary fruit of a stunning midlife volte-face. . . . Recognizing the twenty-first century’s own need for advocates of life-affirming tolerance, readers will embrace this insightful portrait.”
Booklist (starred review)
 
“One of the best books I have read on Montaigne. . . . Frampton argues that to read Montaigne is ‘to touch base with oneself’ and to learn how to act within our capacities, to accept and even to savour them. . . . He demonstrates that the more Montaigne observed ordinary life, the more remarkable he found it, and the more he felt impelled to plunge back into its mess. . . . Four centuries on, Montaigne still speaks to us.”
—Nicholas Shakespeare, The Daily Telegraph (London)
 
“Frampton’s book stands as a work in its own right and should encourage anyone unfamiliar with Montaigne to read the original.”
The Oxford Times
 
When I Am Playing With My Cat sends us back to the Essays with both a deepened understanding and a deepened appreciation of the work of this real-life man for all seasons.” 
The Washington Independent Review of Books

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Angie Boyter VINE VOICE on April 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was a bit disappointed in this book, which is a shame, because it is a fine book that I believe interested readers will enjoy very much if they come with the right expectations.
A book's title should give the reader a sense of what the book is going to be about. From the title "When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know She Is Not Playing with Me? Montaigne and Being in Touch with Life", I anticipated a book focusing on Montaigne's insights into everyday life. Words on the flyleaf talking of Montaigne "finding an antidote to death in the most unlikely places---the touch of a hand, the smell of his doublet, the playfulness of his cat, and the flavor of his wine" and calling him a writer "whose thoughts, even today, offer a guide and unprecedented insight into the simple matter of being alive," strengthened my feeling. In addition, every one of several articles I read about the book mentioned that Montaigne wrote about the human thumb, as a striking example of his interest in the simple things; I rather naturally thought the thumb essay would be discussed at some length. In truth, "Of Thumbs" is cited only once.
"When I Am Playing with my Cat" is a series of essays, most of which could be read by themselves, and each of which is about a subject of interest to Montaigne. However, rather than focusing narrowly on Montaigne's writings, they provide an intellectual history about Montaigne's influences and the events and thinkers that he, in turn, influenced. We learn Montaigne's thoughts through numerous quotes and citations from the essays, but we also learn about the thinking of people like Epictetus, Cicero, Descartes, and even on to Emerson and Orson Welles.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marc S. on April 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Excellent. I picked up this book while visiting London,and it became one of the little joys of that trip. Intrigued by the title and the words "being in touch with life" in the title, I enjoyed this introduction to Montaigne. His approach to life and living were welcome thoughts I embraced and soaked up when I read the book in 2011. "Living happily...is the source of human contentment." Also, I found reading about Montaigne's influence on Shakespeare to be enlightening.
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