Short Reports: Rich Tu vs. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
“This is a revisionist portrait of the character Old Deuteronomy from T.S. Eliot’s book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (popularized by the Broadway play Cats). I always wanted to rethink the imagery of this book (well, really the play) because when I was a kid I used to see the commercials for Broadway’s Cats on New York television and see the actor all dolled up as O.D., being presented as this triumphant Messianic figure akin to Moses and quite honestly, I hated it. When reading the text you understand that O.D. is very very old, almost ancient. He’s seen a lot of war and grief seen and outlived a lot of other cats including his loves. Now if I were an ancient cat I don’t think I would be standing around looking like Moses all the time. I would probably be beat up and sick, have liver spots (I anthropomorphousized him somewhat), weird hairs, and sad at having to carry the weight of seeing everyone around me die and outliving them. It would be a curse. Why couldn’t I have died with my friends in war or something? If O.D.’s a Messianic figure, I view him as a tortured Christ having to make difficult decisions and feeling that painful weight, literally on his head. Also, technically he’s a Pekinese, but hairless cats are much more human to me. Often times I look at a cat and can’t get an emotional hold on it, but not so with a hairless.
Rich Tu is an illustrator and designer based in NYC. He received a Masters Degree in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts in 2009. His clients and collaborators include The New Yorker, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, The Institutional Investor, Tokion Magazine, Slam Magazine, Death + Taxes, SWINDLE Quarterly, The Believer, National Public Radio, Alfa Romeo, and Bombay Sapphire Gin.
He was nominated for the Swatch Young Illustrators Award in 2009 and has been included in the Society of Illustrators and American Illustration annuals. View more of his work at http://richtu.com and his blog http://richtu.blogspot.com.