The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Domestic Violets, by Matthew Norman

Despite some quibbles – Norman is a first-time novelist, so of course there will be a few – I absolutely loved this book. It had emotional depth, humor, some realistic portrayals of men, and a parent/adult-child tension that rang true in many ways. At the same time, the female characters weren’t fleshed out well enough, the emotionally-satisfying ending was not entirely plausible, and Norman has silly definitions of “middle-aged” and “old.” Those aren’t deal killers, though. It’s a good book, a strong first effort, and I trust Norman to do better with his women next time.

In the story, protagonist Tom Violet (an “old” 35 or 36) has a lovely wife, an adorable child, a cute dog, a prestigious job, and a wealthy father. But this is not as good as it seems. He and Anna are having any number of problems, chief among them being a complete failure to communicate when that’s what they need more than anything. He loves Allie, his daughter, who at times is his main reason for hanging in there with his family. The dog is neurotic, the job is soul-sucking, and the father, Curtis, is a famous author who just won the Pulitzer Prize, while Tom has struggled for years to put together a first novel worth showing to anyone. Add a “work crush” to all of this, and Tom’s life is a mess.

But it’s an entertaining mess, and Tom is endearing in his attempts to always do what’s right without selling out any further than he already has at the job. By staying true to himself, Tom begins to take steps to sort through everything, and that is the journey of the book.

Sounds simple. It is and it isn’t. Tom makes any number of mistakes, but his self-deprecating humor and honesty made me cheer him on. He is wickedly funny. So I’m recommending this book.

If you follow this blog because you’re an animal lover, rest assured that nothing bad happens to the dog.


November 14, 2011 Posted by | beach book, Book Reviews, dogs, families, humor | , , , | Leave a comment

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Auto da Fay, by Fay Weldon

I am a big fan of Fay Weldon’s fiction, so when I read that she’d written a somewhat controversial memoir, I had two thoughts: “well, of course,” and “I’ll get it in paperback.” Instead, I read the book  on Kindle, but it is definitely the story of what I will term an “unorthodox” life.

I expected more about Weldon’s writing life, and bits and pieces pop up here and there. But with a childhood like hers, it’s no surprise that much of the book is focused on her early years in New Zealand. Weldon’s father, a physician, left the family — Weldon, her mother, and her sister, Jane — when Fay was fairly young. From that point on, they struggled financially, the respite for Fay and Jane being summers with their father. But that ended when he remarried and their mother came into an inheritance that she promptly squandered by relocating the family to England immediately after WWII, plunging them into poverty once more.

Never staying in the same place for long led to irregular schooling at many schools, but Weldon earned a scholarship to St. Andrew’s College back in a time when women didn’t do such a thing and professors sometimes refused to acknowledge them as students. Following this, she hopped around in her career before landing in copywriting, just as she hopped around in various beds before landing with Ron Weldon — her second husband of three.  She had four sons, the first out of wedlock, though she pretended to be abandoned or a widow, and three with Weldon, who refused to allow her to have a washing machine or typewriter in the house, both on the grounds that they were too noisy. (Like four young boys are not?)

And from all that experience, Fay Weldon wrote a bunch of intriguing and often darkly funny books. The memoir reveals where she acquired certain geographical familiarities or experiences. For example, her father would take Fay and her sister along on house calls at night, leaving them to sleep in the car — something the father of one of her protagonists also did. All in all, one gets the sense that Weldon’s cantankerous genius flows from her experiences. No wonder she disdains research for books — her life has obviated the need for that.

Here is a random representative quote, a new book review feature I’ll be including for books I read via Kindle:

Men may annoy women but by and large they are very good for them, as women are for men. 

I will say that the first part of the book was so depressing that I wasn’t sure I could continue. I’m glad I did, though, and I am recommending Auto da Fay to anyone who has read any of Fay Weldon’s fiction.

As for animals, there are a few mildly disturbing images, but nothing graphic, and no animal characters as such. Therefore, I am declaring this book SAFE for animal lovers.

January 6, 2011 Posted by | autobiography, Book Reviews, families, memoir, nonfiction | , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Fun

I will admit, I’m slightly blue today. The economy, the cold weather, etc., etc. So I’m going to skip the book review I’d planned for today and go for the kind of post that should cheer me up. Maybe something here will brighten your day as well.

Let’s start with something funny from YouTube. It makes me appreciate my cat, Eddie, that much more.

Next, I recently shared the URL for this blog with some writers on LinkedIn. This is for you, fellow writers, or for anyone who has to write for work or school. Because we all know, accurate citations are important.

And in case you, too, are bummed out by the economy and other things, here is an Armageddon Flow Chart .

Special pre-Inauguration bonus: Arlington County, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington DC, sent out an e-mail alert to residents yesterday. An excerpt:

To prepare for this event, pretend a hurricane is coming during that weekend and expect large crowds, congestion, traffic and many delays. 

I thought the part I bolded was pretty funny. But maybe that’s just me

January 9, 2009 Posted by | cats, Editing/Writing Tragedies, humor, random thoughts, satire, YouTube/music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment