The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Sleeping Where I Fall, by Peter Coyote

Only so many people can survive on making earrings from feathers and playing the guitar. Someone has to pick up the garbage, fill the potholes, and manufacture lightbulbs — none of which sounds fun. But a division of labor that includes discrete jobs where people do things they probably wouldn’t want to do on their own is just part of living in a large, post-agrarian society. However, back in the 1960s and 1970s, quite a few people tried going off the grid, spurred by everything from the Vietnam War to the Beatles. Coyote’s account of his years in the counter-culture provides wonderful detail of that experience from an insider’s perspective.

You probably know who Coyote is, because he’s been in a lot of films and has done numerous voiceovers. This memoir covers none of that, instead focusing entirely on the time he spent in various communal living situations, while getting high, acting in the radical San Francisco Mime Troupe, sleeping around, rebuilding damaged trucks, and searching for a way of life that matched his soul. In the end, he managed to stick with acting but integrated his life back into the mainstream.

I don’t know how this book would come across to someone who wasn’t born before 1970. I found it fascinating, but I was in high school and college during the time Coyote chronicles, and I lived in San Francisco for part of the time Coyote was there. But by time I arrived, Haight-Ashbury had been mostly gentrified for the rush of careerist Boomers, the Hell’s Angels reputation as dangerous and completely untrustworthy was well-established, and millions of young feminists (such as myself) had declared counter-culture men to be useless at best. I read Coyote’s book as a chronicle of how all those things came to be. I will recommend this book for those who have any memories of that time, but I’d be curious to know what younger people might think. Coyote writes well and presents vivid stories, so it might be that anyone would appreciate this book.

I set up this blog in order to tell animal lovers whether certain books might disturb them. And there was something in this book that disturbed me, though it wasn’t a scene as such. But when the Hell’s Angels visited a commune where Coyote was living, they not only trashed the place, they also hurt several of the communards’ dogs. This isn’t shown, but it saddened me when I read it, and it has stuck with me. Coyote himself was a devoted dog owner, and he confronted the Hell’s Angels about what they did. There was also an incident in which an owl was killed. Again, this wasn’t shown, but it was sad. With these and similar anecdotes scattered throughout, there are no actual scenes of animal abuse. Still, I’m declaring this book BARELY SAFE for animal lovers.

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January 15, 2009 - Posted by | animals, Book Reviews, history | , , , , ,

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