Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Dog Suggests My Evening's Reading

One afternoon last week, I was thinking about a neighbor's newly adopted dog, to whom I had been introduced that morning, and my daily question about my evening was answered.

I'd curl up after dinner with The Great Gatsby.

More to me now than the title of a novel I revisit every so often, it's the name of a dog with whom I expect to become great friends.

Fitzgerald's classic is many things; what it's not is a book about a dog. There is a dog in the story, however. We get a vivid few glimpses of a presumptive Airedale, and know more about why someone wants that dog than how the dog will develop in response to that need or much else. We shudder at the implications of a dog's leash discovered late in the novel, and at the anguish of tears shed at the sight of a box of dog biscuits. For me, these familiar objects set a nasty trap, as the positive images so easily conveyed by a leash and biscuits turn to messages of inescapable pain.

Then there's Myrtle's violent death. It's compared to that of a dog, with a succinct description that doesn't skimp on horror. A sentence of sixteen words, and in it I hear the squeal of wheels, the metal-on-mortal impact, the car and a driver's indifference roaring away. The comparison to a dog being run over has always made Myrtle special to me. I know what's coming, but the imagery gives me an instant of hope that, like a lucky dog, she'll get out of the way.

As I read that night I found no obvious clue to the naming of my new dog acquaintance. I'll have to ask, and I'll probably ask all my friends about their dogs' names and as many strangers as I can, too. I wonder how many of those dogs will point me to a good book.