As I attempt to formulate my review of Lauri Bortz’ Kung Fu Kitty – Laying Down The Law, I find myself at a loss for words in fear of not accurately assessing the charm and wonder that this short story has brought. At a slim 80 pages, Kung Fu Kitty is literally unlike anything I have ever read in my entire life, and this is a definite good thing.
The story is a very clever retelling of the popular Exodus story but – are you ready for this – with cats. That’s right. Using myth-laden Chinese philosophy, and replete with magical gods and a population of cats, Lauri Bortz has created a masterpiece in taking a religious tale and making it into an epic of wonder and fascination.
For those of you familiar with the Exodus tale, you’ll pick up on Bortz’ panache for imagination straight away. For those of you who are semi-familiar with the Exodus tale, Bortz’ work is still easily digested. The story’s lead cat, Wu Zhua, has saved her people from the sadistic Monkey Dynasty, where they were indentured for many ages. As a result, the kittens being born to this life have lost their knowledge of Kung Fu whom their ancestors had perfected and utilized as a way of life. What Wu Zhua soon discovers in that the newly formed free society of cats is lacking in the historical knowledge section, thus giving Wu Zhua major reservations as to what she has indeed done.
A lack of genuine gratitude of their ancestors has allowed these new free cats to wander aimless and confused. Because of these concerns, Wu Zhua embarks on another ambitious journey to bring reverence to the newly formed free society. As a result of this, Wu Zhua learns the Cat Code of Conduct, which she returns to the new society of Catland and wants to share with its inhabitants. This sharing of the new coda does not go without its own set of difficulties, but ultimately they are accepted and implemented.
What makes this very unique tale so enjoyable are the vividly imaginative illustrations by Michael Gentile. His images of finely detailed cats in various predicaments are both funny and intelligent – there are obvious subliminal meanings being depicted that at first glance might go over the reader’s head. I recommend a second viewing of the pictures alone to everyone who has read this delightful novella.
The Cat Code of Conduct is one that transcends species and life forms. They’re all about fair treatment of others, and the goal of selfless love. My favorite element of the conduct is as follows, and bears worth quoting:
“Above all else, a cat must see
It’s best to live in harmony
With creatures both alike and not
In form, in fact, in thought”
* Thank you kindly to Mark Dagley of Abaton Books for the beautiful print copy, neat postcards, buttons and poster. They’re making the rounds.