Thursday, January 5, 2012

Great Dogs of Literature--and Mean Ones Too!

I know this is a current book on dogs. It is the least weepy, and best recent book about dogs I know. But last blog, I wrote that I didn't know any English-style ghost stories that mentioned dogs. That has changed.
My wife purchased another book of ghost stories by RM James for me for Christmas, and a book called Best Ghost Stories of J.S. LeFanu. LeFanu was another gloomy Irishman, like Bram Stoker, and he wrote what is probably the most amazing novella about vampires--Carmilla. I love Dracula, and he did turn into a dog at one point, but Carmilla is undoubtable the most erotic and tantalizing vampire tale ever. No, I don't read about ghosts and vampires exclusively, but I love 19th and early 20th century books by the Brits and Irish. Check out LeFanu or RM James. No blood and gore in these really, just scary, thoughtful writing.
Now, LeFanu wrote a ghost story entitled Squire Toby's Will that features a hound as out-of-control as any I have encountered in fiction. This dog is a fright. So, dog ghosts, and this dog may be a ghost, are not unheard of in fiction.

I have written before about dogs I love in fiction. And I will stay on the 19th and early 20th century fiction from across the pond. In Wuthering Heights the whole tone of the book is set by the hounds at the Heights. They are dangerous and untrustworthy, just like the main character.

My favorite dog in fiction though is Colin in John Buchan's Prester John. John Buchan wrote The 39 Steps. It is roll-up-your-sleeves, grin-and-bear-it fiction in the best tradition of the British hero. Colin the dog in Prester John is mean as hell, and loyal unto death to our hero. He is my favorite old time fiction dog.

I don't know, maybe I am stuck in the past. I recently finished a volume on WWI by Winston Churchill, followed by a book about Americans in London during WWII. I followed that with a book about Teddy Roosevelt that I'm still reading and ghost stories from the 19th and early 20th century.\

I don't read a lot of fiction anymore but for these old British tales. I did read Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go last year. Yeah, he's still a Brit. Ishiguro is the master of the slow build of despair. His books are not so uplifting, but he is a master. No dogs though.

I read a couple of Barry Unsworth books last year. There's a dog in one of them. Another Brit is Unsworth.

To be fair, I am not obsessed with dogs, though I do seem to be obsessed with the Brits and their authors.

I went to London a few years ago. There's no dog dung on the streets over there. British dogs seem as mannerly as their owners. The Guiness is better in Ireland though.

Okay, so this is another rambling blog. Give one of these old British authors a shot though. Or read Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain. It's the best modern dog book out there.
Hope the new year is a good one for all.
Keep your dogs in your yard or on a leash, and be nice to one another.

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