Crozet’s famous literary cat, Sneaky Pie, the protagonist of Rita Mae Brown’s series of mystery novels that use Crozet as their setting, has thrown her hat in the ring this presidential election year and in Brown’s latest novel—not a mystery—the feline sets out a tongue-in-cheek analysis of national issues.
Brown spoke to a crowd of more than 60 fans at Tabor Presbyterian Church’s fellowship hall August 7 at a book-signing event for Sneaky Pie for President arranged by Over The Moon Bookstore.
“After we opened the bookstore,” said owner Ann DeVault, “we discovered what we call Sneaky Pie stalkers, people who come looking for Rita Mae. They see the sign for Crozet on the Interstate and they want to see everything here.”
“I stopped in this town,” said Brown, who first made her reputation in 1973 with the publication of Rubyfruit Jungle, a coming-of-age novel about lesbianism. “There’s nothing here. The point about Crozet is that it hasn’t been gentrified. It’s still real people and a community you can feel a part of that is next to the golden fungus of Charlottesville.”
“Why a cat?” she asked rhetorically. “I had a nice career. I had been on the New York Times bestseller list with books academics liked. But once you make money, they don’t like you any more.
“I was a classics major. I thought I would never do genre literature. But it was the best thing I ever did because it kept me from being a snob. You have to do the format, mystery.
“We are so divorced from the natural world. In 1905, 90 percent of Americans were living on farms. In 1944, it got to 50/50. Now only 10 percent of us live in the countryside. People get divorced from other life forms.
“A dog? Your dog knows your senses are not as good as his. They have not forgotten about their bargain with humans. We have. That’s why we have the SPCA. We even give away our children. Watch your animals solve a problem. They keep eliminating the possibilities.
“I got into Sneaky Pie and tried to look at life through an animal’s eyes,” said Brown. “I realized we are the ones with the problems.
“Politicians are all capitalizing on selling fear. It’s internal ones for Democrats, and for Republicans it’s external enemies. No animal would be dumb enough to subscribe to an ideology. There are 15,000 foster children in Virginia that nobody wants. One in 11 kids in Virginia has slept on the streets. These things provoked me to listen to my cats.
“The cat got me going. I’m an old-fashioned Republican, not the kind we have now. The kind that stays out of other people’s business.
“The difference between Democrats and Republicans is the difference between syphilis and gonorrhea.” That comment drew applause from the audience. Brown also holds Ph.D.s in literature and political science.
“We could have solved the civil war problem three times. We didn’t until after a million people had died. The cat is saying, step back and lay down your ideologies. Think about what you need and what the earth needs. [Sneaky Pie] believes any man or woman who is running for president should be neutered. It will focus the men and calm the women. The cat’s motto is, ‘I can’t do any worse.’”
That drew consenting laughter.
“I’m proud of our state,” said Brown. “Both of our candidates have been good governors in their way. You’re not voting for a creep.”
Brown shocked the crowd (and it was still being discussed around Crozet for days afterward) when she asked, how do Southerners say F*** Y**?
“Is that a fact?” she continued. “Yankees don’t know the code.” Another example is the expression, “Bless his/her heart,” which is a polite way to say, isn’t he/she a complete sorry mess.
“The reason literature comes out of the South is because we are so full of layers and they are so rich,” said Brown. “Down here we still read the King James Version and with our cadence. The state of Virginia has had more blood poured into it than any other state in the Union. Sneaky Pie understands that history.”
Brown spent nearly an hour signing books, a can of Coca-Cola at her side, and brought a cat’s paw stamp to mark the books she signed.
A portion of her proceeds from book sales will be donated to the Nelson County SPCA, she said.