“The Lost Dog”, Michelle de Kretser.
(Chatto & Windus, London: 2008)
Review – Beautiful & tedious & gorgeous & dull. Yes, all of those things.
I had to re-borrow this book from the library to try to remember what it was about and if I’d liked it. In general, I’d say that’s not a good thing to say about a book I read only a few months ago.
English Professor Tom Loxley is staying in the rural cottage of an artist friend while he finishes his book about Henry James. Somehow, he loses his dog. As he searches for his lost pet some other stuff happens which left zero impression on me. Something about art. Something about a mystery involving the artist’s former husband.
I quite like literary books but it really bothers me when a book wanks on endlessly about art and literature. People sit around having pompous discussions about philosophers and artists, and the conversations are there solely to demonstrate how much the author knows about this guff. Maybe I’m mixing in the wrong circles, but no one really talks like this, do they?
Tom told her that Renoir, reproached for doing everything but settle down to paint, had answered that a roaring fire requires the gathering of a great deal of wood. He saw that this pleased Nelly, although she didn’t remark on it.
~ pg. 46
By all means, talk about that stuff in an oblique way, but putting those sentences into the mouths of your characters seems so insincere.
When she asked about his book on James, Tom talked about the novelist’s desire to be modern. ‘He wanted to distance himself from the literary past, from old forms like gothic. But that stuff wafts around his work like a smell he’s too exquisite to mention.’
~ pg. 102
I’ll tell you what’s too exquisite to mention…
The dog of the title is never named and I never once felt that Tom had any real connection to it. The book is quite lovely in parts and has some really beautiful moments, but the overall effect is of something written self-consciously. De Kretser set out to write a moving, literary novel and that’s exactly what she’s done. Yawn.