Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shaggy Muses

This is my dog. There are many like him, but this one is mine...darn, wrong post (see A Room Of One's Own, below).

Is it just a coincidence that there is a long and well documented association between writers and their dogs? True, they hardly know the difference between a subjunctive or imperative mood or how not to split infinitives and yet there is still something deeply satisfying about a cold wet nose on your copy in those inhumanly early hours of the morning when the rest of the world is asleep.
I don't personally subscribe to the "unconditional love", theory, though. Dogs are one of the most conditional species on the planet, mainly due to our insistance on
anthropomorphosizing them almost out of existence via jumpsuits and sunglasses and a tolerance of behaviours we wouldn't stand for in our (actually) human companions. (I did, however, for a brief period of mourning after the death of our last dog, make my 3 year old son wear a T-Shirt with the words "Dog Substitute" on them. Sorry.)

Dogs have also inspired their fair share of literary efforts: Boatswain, the favorite pet of Lord Byron, was the subject of the poet's famous "Epitaph to a dog" whilst Gerald Durrall's dogs Roger, Widdle and Puke (which one do you fancy, then?) feature heavily in his books about growing up in Corfu. In addition, the few paragraphs on Darwin's theory about dogs and intention that feature in Ian McEwan's Enduring Love are some of the most memorable (for me) in the entire novel.

The rather frightening ability of dogs to get under one's skin is also demonstrated rather poignently by the story of Narnia creator C. S Lewis, whose dog Jacksie was killed in an accident when Lewis was still a child. Shortly thereafter Lewis decided to change his own name to Jacksie (Jack) by which he was known to friends and family for the rest of his life.

Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, and Emily Bronte by Maureen Adams, documents the fascinating relationships between five celebrated authors and their dogs. Through death and depression to a persuasive essay on the shared social situation of dogs and women in Victorian Britain this is an interesting and thoughtful alternative history of writers and their four legged companions.

See you in the park.

1 comment:

Melafrique said...

Eames, he is beautiful