Can we talk about There is No Dog?
Because either this book misses its mark by a mile or I’m missing something.
It’s by Meg Rosoff, author of the 2005 Printz award winner how i live now, a book that blows me away every. single. time I read it.
It’s garnered 4 stars (Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Horn Book, and Kirkus).
(Admittedly, 2012 seems to be the year of multiple stars, but it’s still nothing to sneeze about.)
And it’s a book that leaves me feeling like the butt of a joke not unlike the cosmic joke that is the centerpiece of the book.
Because this is Meg Rosoff, there is some excellent writing on display. A few scenes and characters (Eck!) have stuck with me since I read this, quite early in the year. But my overall feeling is bafflement.
The universe as a plaything in the hands of a spoiled child is not a new idea. I wrote a poem about this in high school. It was rejected from the literary magazine on the grounds that it was a cliche they’d seen before (and there may have been a suggestion of accidental plagiarism). So what’s different here, aside from full length novel treatment in the hands of someone with a fine grasp of sentence structure?
I kept waiting for something to feel startlingly different. I was waiting for something fresh and zingy and newsworthy, but instead there was Bob. And Bob did not illuminate any mystery of the world or make me see things differently, and in fact he seemed like the worst stereotype of the teen boy, more caricature than character.
Now, I’ve read the reviews. The professional journals say things like “arch and thoughtful, silly and smart” (Booklist) and “one of the sharpest-witted tours de force of recent memory” (Kirkus). The Guardian said, “One must simply revel in the joyful singularity of Rosoff’s latest masterpiece.” And I found myself wondering, again, if I was missing something, or if no one else wanted to admit that this high concept work by a bona fide master had left them cold, so they went effusive instead, à la The Emperor’s New Clothes.
I could go on. I could cite you passages that are well written. I could raise some of the specifics that I find hard to understand (Eck!). I could talk about the irritable pathos of Mr B, an interesting character but one that, again, I’m not sure illuminates anything other than Rosoff’s ability to make even a cranky low level bureaucrat into an almost heroic figure. Which, okay, is masterful writing, but my basic problem here was that for me the whole was somehow less than the sum of the parts. The sentences and characters were often interesting (although not Lucy or Bob, despite how central they are, and having the least interesting characters in the center might be one of the major flaws I can put my finger on), but the text as a whole wasn’t, and I could spend lots more words thinking about that but maybe not getting anywhere conclusive (because if I haven’t figured it out in 9 months, I’m not sure 900 words will get me any further).
But instead of doing all of that, I want to open it up to you.
Do you have this in your top ten? Is it not in your personal top ten but you can illuminate its charms? Am I just being dense, or am I the little boy who said the Emperor was naked? Comments are open, so start talking!