An Interview with Haee by R.S. Vern

This is an interview with Haee by R.S. Vern. Haee is a middling cat from book collection “Haee and the other middlings” created by R.S. Vern. Silent and pensive most of the time, this is the first time he has granted an interview to a human being. After the interview, R.S. Vern revealed she thought she knew Haee, but actually, she does not now. The interview ended abruptly with Haee walking away.

Minuted by Middling Industries

R.S. Vern: So how do you feel now that people are reading about you?
Haee: *blink *blink *purr….  Life goes on. I still eat, sleep, poo, daydream, wait for death.

R.S. Vern: What’s your favorite drink?
Haee: Root – beer. Preferably with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

R.S. Vern: What’s your favorite food?
Haee: Chopped chicken liver is my all time favorite. Occasionally, I like nibbling on prickly plants… just to tickle my throat.

R.S. Vern: Favorite song?
Haee: Currently, it’s “Bad Guy” by Billie Ellish.

R.S. Vern: What’s your favorite TV channel?
Haee: MTV.

R.S. Vern: Do you have an all time favorite book?
Haee: “The Outsider” by Albert Camus. I am intrigued by the character of Meursault. I respect anyone who would die for truth, even if the truth is hard to bear or accept.
When Meursault was sentenced to death at the end, he told the chaplain he had naturally wished for another life sometime. But it meant nothing more than wishing he was rich or could swim faster. It was the same thing and he said finally, “One which would remind me of this life.”
That’s one intriguing statement.

R.S. Vern: Any literary hero?
Haee: Quasimodo, the tragic hero from Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo. He’s romantically humane beneath that totally deformed outer body.

R.S. Vern: Is there a particular book you enjoy reading during rainy days?
Haee: “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Reading it always reminds me the importance of simple things like a piece of bread, a book, a match, a string and most importantly, what freedom means.

R.S. Vern: What do you plan to read next?
Haee: I was just picking up “Down and out in Paris and London” by George Orwell.

R.S. Vern: Ok. Getting back to favorites. Do you have a favorite colour?
Haee: Are you trying to be funny? I’m color blind.

R.S. Vern: Em… ok. Sorry… (Embarrassed)
Haee: Don’t be sorry. There’s nothing to be sorry about. I’m still alive.

R.S. Vern: Oh… ok. Yes. So do you have any favorite food?
Haee: You asked me that earlier.

R.S. Vern: Oh… sorry…
Haee: Stop saying sorry.

R.S. Vern: (Clears throat) If there’s one thing you can change about the world, what would it be?
Haee: To have better and cleaner air in the city.

R.S. Vern: Have you ever wished you could be something else other than a cat?
Haee: I don’t mind being a cat. But sometimes I wish I could walk on 2 legs and not 4. Like you.

R.S. Vern: Why is that?
Haee: Then I can be a bit more normal and perhaps taller.

R.S. Vern: Huh?
Haee: (Rolls eyes)

The interview ended abruptly here as Haee walked away.

Beautifully Illustrated and Thought Provoking Modern Day Allegory

This is the simple but poignant story of Haee, a cat with a crooked tail who lives a comfortable and worry-free life with his loving family.

One day, curious Haee goes exploring in a black hole and gets lost. Haee is discovered by Tom and Jane. Tom and Jane take Haee home and give Haee everything he could possibly need or want. Though they appear to be a perfect couple living a perfect life filled with good jobs, exercise, organic food, sleep, a nice car and everything they need, Tom is secretly dissatisfied with the busy urban life and wishes for clean fresh air and Jane wishes she were a bird and could fly away and see the world.

Haee, in spite of his pampered life, treats and his part in making the house run smoothly, discovers that he, too, is missing something. So one day Haee decides to go play with the cats in the alley and make friends with Whie – the one cat that all the other cats ignore because of her big red nose.  Haee enjoys being with Whie so much that he does not return to Tom and Jane.

The first in a trilogy, this story centers on the themes of need versus want, self-fulfillment and motivation. Author R.S. Vern introduces the concept of “Middlings” to the reader in the introduction, explaining that Middlings are those who appear to have it all, are independent, respect non-conformists and the environment but feel “apart from it all”. They also often ask themselves: “Are we not as happy as those who are much better off in this world?”

Haee, Tom and Jane are all Middlings who appear to have everything they could possibly need and want to be comfortable. But, as the evocative and enticingly detailed pen-line illustrations show, there is an underlying sense of dissatisfaction that grows in spite of all “needs” being met. Realizing this, Haee acts on his desires leaves the comfort of home in search of more satisfying life.

The ending comes somewhat abruptly, leaving a sense that the story is incomplete, however Vern does effectively brings to light the question about whether or not having it all is really the paradigm for the middle class working Tom and Jane, and whether Haee, or any other Middling, is really living more if they are less “comfortable”.

Vern’s story is engaging on many levels and the mostly-black-and-white illustrations add a contemporary and stylish elegance to the clean, crisp layout of the ebook that also features pop up text boxes when narrative is double clicked.

HAEE is a beautifully illustrated and thought-provoking modern-day allegory suitable for older children and grown-ups alike.

Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader.

Appealing Illustrations which are Whimsical but Tempered with a Dash of Quirky, Edward Gorey-style Grimness

Cats from Green Alley

How does one leave a middling – that is, average – life behind? And what does an unconventional existence look like?

In the second installment of a three-part series, local author R.S. Vern explores these questions and continues the story of Haee, a cat which is pretty average in every way, save for his exceptionally long tail. The first book in this illustrated series, Haee: The Cat with a Crooked Tail, saw the titular feline leaving behind a comfortable and routine life with his owners, Tom and Jane, to experience life on the streets.

Like the first book, The Unconventional Life of Haee features appealing illustrations which are whimsical but tempered with a dash of quirky, Edward Gorey-style grimness. As the story opens, Haee’s explorations have taken him to the back alley behind the neighbourhood. Here, he befriends a motley crew of cats, including Whie, who is ostracised by the others because of her “unusually big red nose”.

Unlike the others, Haee is attracted to Whie, who he finds “really special and interesting”, and not just because of her oversize schnoz. For starters, the latter is vegetarian – her way of “saving the world and making it a better and more harmonious place to live in”.

Whie’s “queer eating habit” befuddles all the other cats, except Haee. (It’s easy to see the parallel to the human world here: As a once-vegetarian, I can honestly say that few things perplex omnivores more than someone who won’t eat anything which once had a pulse.) Fascinated, Haee learns to eat leftover pizza discarded in the alley instead of the usual roaches and rats. He even goes so far as to implement a set of rules forbidding the alley cats from eating any living creature.

As with many noble New Year’s resolutions and good intentions, things go according to plan for a while. However, it doesn’t take too long before the cats tire of their new lifestyles and revert to their old, roach-hunting ways. Disillusioned, Haee decides to move on without Whie, who is perfectly “comfortable with her life” in the alley.

Ending on an inconclusive note, this book sets the stage for book three, where we’ll (hopefully) find out the answers to questions such as: Will Haee return to a safe and comfortable life with Tom and Jane? Will he see Whie again? And will he ever find the different life he is looking for? Then again, as the author notes, perhaps life is not about achieving that perfect ending, but “having that extraordinary journey”, where dreaming and searching never stops.

By Lynette Koh, Senior Writer, ilovebooks.com

24 Hours with the Cat

An observation on what Haee’s daily routine was recently carried out by Middling Industries. This was charted across a duration of 1 month, in the house of R.S. Vern (owner/ writer of Haee). At the end of it, we asked Haee if he feels happy and contented doing the things he does everyday. This was what Haee said:

“Although I go through a standard and comfortable routine everyday, it does not mean I am totally happy with what I do. Although I am well-fed and never have to worry about going hungry, it does not necessarily mean I am fully contented.  I often wish I could have more time in a day. If I could have an extra 2 hours everyday, I would choose to exercise and get fit.”

We believe what Haee meant by exercising is simply wandering around the house. But this is based on our assumptions only.

A 5 Stars Book Review by Readers Favorite

A 5 star book review for "Haee The cat with a crooked tail" by R.S. Vern

“Haee The Cat with a Crooked Tail” received a 5 – stars book review.

“Are we not as happy as those who are much better off in this world?” After this statement I was hooked! Then seeing that first cat just blew me away! I love all the artwork! Haee gets restless with his life and decides to go looking for adventure and through his adventure he gets lost in a black hole but he meets a new family. He stays with the new family for years observing what they do and how they live their lives. He then again gets restless and decides to go on a new adventure with a street cat. This is where book two starts.

This book was very cute. I loved the wonderful drawings. The only drawing I had an issue with was the one on smoking. The drawings are really what make this book so cute. I can’t wait to get a hold of the rest of them and I think I am a middling as well!” – Reviewed by Jessica Porter for Readers Favorite

Bittersweet for “Haee The Cat with a Crooked Tail”

What does it mean to be “middling”? The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as being of “middle, medium, or moderate size, degree, or quality”. In other words, average. In this charming illustrated book for children and adults, local author R.S. Vern explores the middling life through the eyes of Haee, a cat which is pretty ordinary save for its unusually long and crooked tail.

The first installment in a planned trilogy, the story sees Haee leaving his comfy home to explore the world. After losing his way, he is adopted by Tom Stuck and Jane Fruss, a very ordinary sort of couple. Haee gets used to leading a routine life with his new owners, but eventually gets bored and heads for the streets, where he befriends the alley cats, including Whie, a cat with an unnaturally big nose.

Bittersweet and seemingly simple, this story embodies the ambivalence the author feels about an average, middle-class existence – possibly mundane, yes, but reassuring in its certainties and not without its own joys.

So, on one hand, you have Tom and Jane, a middling couple who always “wake up early for work, go for evening jogs and sleep early at night”. They do have secret dreams: Organic food-loving Tom fantasises about moving away from the city, while Jane wishes she could fly away and see the world. However, they continue going about their routine lives, never acting on these inner desires.

On the other hand, there are also moments in the book where the author hints at the possibility that the things which prevent us from making major life changes may actually be much less frightening than we think.

Early in the story, for example, Haee gets lost after he enters a black hole he comes upon after leaving home. “Alone and terribly frightened”, he regrets his earlier curiosity and swears never to “act so foolishly and recklessly again”.  At this moment, he is petrified when he sees “a pair of huge claws coming at him” in the darkness, but the claws turn out to be the (skinny) hands of Tom Stuck, who rescues Haee from the black hole.

By making it apparent to the reader that the things which frightened Haee so greatly are actually pretty harmless, Vern slips in an important point: Perhaps it isn’t that scary or difficult to create a life less ordinary.

By Lynette Koh, Senior Writer, Mediacorp Pte Ltd

Wit, Subtle Humor and even Cynicism towards the Absurdities found in the Human World.

A 5 star book review by Readers Favourite for Book #2
A 5 star book review by Readers Favorite for Book #2

What would it feel like to see the world through the green eyes of a cat? No need to guess, just read “The Unconventional Life of Haee” by R.S. Vern. The story made me keep turning the pages till the very end, as the writing generates beauty through its simplicity. The protagonist is Haee, a cat who prefers the eventful life in the back alley to the monotony of the role of a domestic ‘pet’. Rejecting the safety of a routine life, Haee takes the hard path and encounters several other cat-characters who display a wide and a very interesting diversity of attitudes and behavior. The story is all about how Haee reconciles with this society.

The plot bears features of an allegory, as it contains several levels of understanding. “The Unconventional Life of Haee” can be read and enjoyed as a simple tale woven around an alley-cat, although it has a deeper layer of ideas inter-twined in it. The themes are not made lessons. They are presented just as parts of the world it describes. The cats who appear through the pages of the book epitomize certain stereo-typical characters in human society. They have deep-rooted norms or conventions. Some differ from the majority and live silently. Then there are trouble-makers, like Haee, who change, and who wish to change their immediate world as well. What happens when unconventional attitudes meet standard conventions? R.S. Vern tries to analyse it through her fiction. It being the second book of a series, the writing denotes wit, subtle humor and even cynicism towards the absurdities found in the human world. The story is strewn with illustrations which contribute considerably to the artistic value of this piece of writing. Read “The Unconventional Life of Haee” and enter into the bizarre world of Green Alley, where cats are vegetarians.

Reviewed by Gayani Hathurusingha for Readers Favorite