Review: Copycat by David Yow

Let’s see… Cats and puns illustrated by a musician? It’s like the Book Gods sensed a need in my life and amply provided.

Copycat by David Yow (cover)

Perhaps best known as a member of noise rock bands Scratch Acid and the Jesus Lizard, David Yow is also an accomplished visual artist. While Copycat may be seen as less “serious” than some of his other work, there’s still a subtle complexity to these animals. “I love cats. Always have,” he says about the book. “I also love wordplay. I’m the only adult I hang out with who still gets a kick out of puns.”

The cats themselves are somewhat simple doodles placed onto a photographic background. Every image is side-by-side with its title, which vary from the more obvious (“Cat Scratch Fever”) to the I see what you did there:

Copycat- Catatonic - David Yow

Copycat-Tom Cat - David Yow

“Cat Stevens” is a cat sitting on top of a guitar, naturally, and “Cat Power” resembles the Jukebox album cover. “Cate Blanchett” earned a literal laugh out loud — picture the above cat doodle dressed as Galadriel. Other references are more direct, with Cat in the Hat, Sylvester Cat, and Stimpson J. Cat all making appearances.

Some of the cat puns veer into heavier and/or gross territory. “Catgut” and “Category” are enough to keep one from buying this for kids, but it’s not as though most kids are going to get the “Cat Ballou” or “Scat” jokes anyway. My favorite of all the puns — though it’s hard to decide — goes to “Catastrophe,” which you’ll just have to click through to see. Yow’s site offers many of his cat doodles for sale, and one can get a sense of what this “very important book” is like. Though it’s easy to flip through the book quickly, part of what makes this book entertaining is pausing to absorb the background details. Some images have more going on than others, but what’s there keeps the book from looking like a dashed-off vanity project. It’s funny, yes, but it’s still art.

Though I’m sure there are Jesus Lizard fans out there who are buying it just because David Yow made it, Copycat is also excellent for the person who keeps trying to talk themselves out of buying another stupid-clever-etc. feline-centered book. Like me. When offered a review copy, I admit that I narrowly avoided writing, “CATS + PUNS?! I’M IN!” to Akashic Books’s person in charge of such things, and instead I formulated a more professional response. The urge was there, is all I’m saying. Surely you know crazy cat people like me who could use a hardback kitty-art book. Indulge them. They’ll thank you  — after they’re done giggling — I’m sure of it.

Copycat by David Yow is available from Akashic Books in August 2014 in both regular and autographed special editions. I thank the publisher for sending me a copy, and I will continue to be fair in my reviews.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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