This quiet little book is captivating. An unnamed female author and teacher of writing is coping with the suicide of a male writer friend she has known for decades, since her college days. At first, the chapters are addressed to him in the second person. Wife number Three convinces her to take on the dead man’s Great Dane, despite the fact that she lives in a small apartment that has a no-dog policy. There’s a danger she could lose it with such an obvious dog. As she works through her grief we’re treated to many interesting quotes from different authors on the subject of writing, many of them quite contradictory, and to some acerbic observations on the world of writers. Why do they resent the success of other authors so much? Because it’s a small raft and if you can chuck someone off it your chances of staying afloat are better.
Mixed in with this are nuggets of information about dogs and many intriguing thoughts about the lives of pets and their interactions with people. The British author Roger Ackerley had a highly unusual relationship with his dog Queenie. Though not sexual, it was a marriage of the heart. The narrator, in trying to relieve the depression of Apollo, the Great Dane, ends up somewhat similarly. Sadly, big dogs don’t live long and Apollo is arthritic.
Towards the end of the book is a different section, where a story is told of woman visiting an author friend who has just come out of hospital after attempting suicide. She tells him she is writing a fictionalised version of it. He is aghast, feels used, and tells her off, thus raising questions of how authors use the fodder of people they know. This question also surfaces in relation to abused, sex-trafficked women doing a writing workshop. Another issue is canvassed between authors: the cultural change they’ve observed in their young writing students, who think that if they don’t like the material or point of view of a famous author, they shouldn’t have to read that author’s books. These young people don’t seem to think of writing as a vocation, or that their minds should be stretched.
So much wisdom and knowledge is compressed in this book. It’s an unusual story, simply told, which is quite profound and a great pleasure to read.
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Virago; 1 edition (8 January 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0349012814
- ISBN-13: 978-0349012810
- Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1 x 19.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 200 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)