Thursday, September 27, 2012


When I first met my friend, Kim, she did not like dogs.  She would tolerate my dog, when she came to my house, as long as my dog didn't try to "touch" her.  Then, The Typical Book Group read The Art of Racing in the Rain, and her heart grew a size.  When we read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, her heart grew again.  Next thing you know, Kim got dog, who looks remarkably like the dog on the cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain.  Coincidence?  I think not.

About a year ago, Kim told me about Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst, and said that I had to read it.  Unfortunately, at that time, Kim was stuck in a rut of reading books, and especially memoirs, involving people with mental illness.  She described Dogs of Babel as being the story of a mentally ill woman who kills herself, and her husband who tries to teach her dog to talk when he misses his wife.  For some reason, I was not interested.

So this year, Kim stepped up and offered to have the Typical Book Group meet at her house to discuss our summer BFB, 11/22/63, by Stephen King, if she could pick the book when we met at my house the following month.  This was a fair trade off, as she agreed to let me pick the book when the Friends Book Group meets at her house that same month.  But then she picked Dogs of Babel, and I was a little worried.  I considered sending an email out to the group explaining that I really didn't pick the book, Kim did, but that seemed a little cowardly.  So, with a bit of dread, I started reading Dogs.  And I found that I really liked it.

Let me describe Dogs to you, in a way that might make it a little more attractive than Kim's mentally-ill-woman-lonely-man-talking-dog description:

Dogs of Babel is the story of a man, Paul,  who comes home from work to find that his wife, Lexy, died after falling from the top of an apple tree in their back yard.  Neighbors were alerted to the tragedy by the couple's dog, who was running back and forth between the house and Lexy's body, and barking frantically.  Lexy is not normally the tree climbing type, so Paul suspects that she may have killed herself.  Once the police leave and he has his house to himself, Paul notices two things.  The first is that Lexy rearranged the books on their bookshelf in a seemingly random manner before climbing the tree.  The second is that someone cooked a steak in a frying pan, and apparently consumed it, without using a plate or silverware.  There is only one witness who can tell him what happened - the dog, Lorelei.  Since he is already a linguist, Paul thinks that he just might be able to teach Lorelei to communicate intelligibly.  Complications arise, involving convicted felons, psychic hot lines and masks, as the story twists toward its satisfying ending.

Now do you want to read it?  You should.  Yes, the wife is probably mentally ill.  Yes, it is ridiculous to think that a dog could be taught to speak.  The book works through flashbacks that tell the story of Paul and Lexy's relationship, and their mutual love of Lorelei.  The critics agree - Dogs was a NYT Notable Book in 2003.

I'll post more about this one when the Typical Book Group meets to discuss it next month.

In Other News:  I read this story in the New York Times about a small island off the coast of Georgia with few inhabitants and fewer utilities, services and opportunities, and couldn't help thinking of The Watery Part of the World by Michael Parker.  In that book, descendants of island settlers are trying to make due in the modern world, despite the declining state of the island.  It seems that places like Parker described really still exist.

Next up:  Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru

Still listening to:  World Without End by Ken Follett.  I'm on the 9th disc, which means I am about 1/4 of the way through.  I'm really liking it though, so I think I'll make it to the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...