Offbeat and clever, there is something soap-like
about this fly-on-the-wall tragi-comic drama as, in what appears to be an
effort to teach him loyalty and devotion, a womanizing English Lit professor is
reincarnated as the world’s most articulate dog. Through the dog’s perceptive eyes and sharp
narration, we watch unfold the tale of the American anti-dream; an otherwise
good-hearted and decent family blighted by hard drug addiction and mental
illness. A generally well-written book,
with a great concept; William Natale is a clearly very smart, well-educated
author, who knows a great deal about his subject matter, and undoubtedly has
something real to say about it – added to this, it is interesting to read the
characters’ realistic banter and discoursing in their Chicago vernacular. They’re not bad people; just a mish-mash of
souls trying to get through life, as they discuss relationships, family, work
and navigate their way through the increasingly prominent drug-related legal problems. Sydney (the dog) delivers his objective account
of events with a genuine air of affection, and right from the outset you can
see that this book is in part Natale’s love-letter to man’s best friend.
For the first half, the ensemble cast seem to
interact a little hap-hazardly; it feels like improv-drama, so don’t be
expecting a particular conceivable line of narrative as such – it is simple
slice-of-life, and as the reader, you are trying to keep in touch. I will be honest, it is long, and sometimes
it does feel like a prolonged effort is required to keep track of what is going
on, as it seems to continuously digress; you certainly need to be on the author’s
plane to fully benefit from the experience.
Whilst eloquent and articulate, there is a scattergun feel, and the
longer it continues, the more it begins to feel like an off-centre
monologue. There is an obvious vein of
genuine quality in Natale’s work, and enormous poignancy in this book specifically
– as the second half brings the book into a more coherent shape – sadly,
though, this may be distracted from by the many layers of offbeat monologue.
There is an ongoing issue with punctuation, particularly
commas, which it was at times crying out for.
Otherwise, though, Natale’s use of language is proficient and
professional. Personally, I would have
liked to see it more focused and accomplished; more acutely highlighting the storyline
of its main characters, rather than digressing as much as it did – but, it is
very clear to see that there is a real spark of quality in Natale, and I would be
interested to see how it develops.
In : Book Reviews