Bookshots: 'Fifteen Dogs' by Andre Alexis
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Who wrote it?
Plot in a Box:
Apollo and Hermes walk into a bar. They get to arguing about whether dogs, granted human intelligence, would be any happier than humans are – or aren’t. So they zap a kennel full of canines and watch the show.
Invent a new title for this book:
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog - oh, sorry, that's already been taken.
Read this if you liked:
An Arrow’s Flight by Mark Merlis
Meet the book’s lead(s):
Majnoun, a black Poodle; Prince, a mutt; Atticus, a Neopolitan mastiff.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
CGI. Animation would ruin the conceit
Setting: would you want to live there?
I hear Toronto is lovely, but I would have a hard time living there if I was a dog — the winters are too cold.
What was your favorite sentence?
For Atticus, all the old pleasures – sniffing at an anus, burying one’s nose where a friend’s genitals were, mounting those with lower status – could no longer be had without crippling self-consciousness.
“Why don’t we call him Lord Jim?”
“You want to name him after the world’s most boring book?”
“If I wanted to do that, I’d call him Golden Bowl.”
Fifteen Dogs is the best written, cleverest, and most involving book I’ve read in a long time. It’s funny when it wants to be and deeply philosophical without being ponderous the rest of the time. André Alexis’s conceit – that dogs could be given human intelligence – allows him to explore what it means to be human in a fresh, exciting way that would be impossible to achieve if the characters were human to begin with.
Alexis’ technical skills are extraordinary. His characters are diverse and expertly differentiated, and his sentence crafting is brilliant.
This book has special resonance for writers. One of the dogs becomes a poet, and his struggles ring true to anyone who has ever attempted serious wordsmithing. And I’m not ashamed to say that I cried at the end.
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