War affects us all

REVIEW: “Scribbling the Cat,” by Alexandra Fuller (2004)

Reviewed by REBECCA RANDALL

I haven’t accidentally stumbled on a better writer since I saw Alexandra Fuller speak at Wordstock in Portland in October 2007. That day she read an excerpt from “Scribbling the Cat,” in which she arrives on a small lake island with an ex-soldier and is essentially attacked by a “pet” lion being cared for by the soldier’s old wartime friend.

I was hooked. I bought the book, got it signed and finished reading it in a week.

Fuller weaves humorous anecdotes and deep philosophical questions about the nature of humanity into this book about “K,” a former Rhodesian soldier returning years later to the battlefields on which he fought. Fuller travels with him desiring to understand the Rhodesian War, which her family supported during her youth in her home country of Zimbabwe.

The book ventures beyond a mere profile and cuts to the core of the K’s humanity daring the reader to see himself in the soldier. K battles his own demons from a racially driven war marked with hate and killing innocents.

Fuller opens herself up in the story, bringing greater intimacy to the book. The journey brings her face-to-face with the haunting ghosts of the war, which live on in K , and as Fuller discovers – in herself.

The book is a timely look at war and its effects on all of us.

“Those of us who grow in war are like clay pots fired in an oven that is overhot,” Fuller wrote in a postlude. “Confusingly shaped like the rest of humanity, we nevertheless contain fatal cracks that we spend the rest of our lives itching to fill. All of us with war-scars will endeavor to find some kind of relief from the constant sting of our incompleteness – drugs, love, alcohol, God, death, truth.”

Also by Alexander Fuller:

  • “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight,” by Alexandra Fuller (2001). After reading “Scribbling the Cat,” I went backwards and read Fuller’s memoir. It is both an ode to the Africa she knew and a critique of the flawed upbringing she experienced in white-ruled Rhodesia at the cusp of a war.
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