Recital of the Dog

David Rabe, Author
David Rabe, Author Grove/Atlantic $19.95 (308p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1488-4
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-0-8021-3658-9
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This curious novel seems to be playwright Rabe's attempt to tap a fictional genre one associates with Central European writers--Kafka and Grass come to mind--transplanted to upstate New York. An unnamed artist tells the story of his psychological disintegration, which begins when he shoots a neighbor's dog in a fit of pique because the animal constantly harassed his small herd of cows. He claims to be sorry, but his remorse takes the form of being nasty to his wife (no charmer herself), ignoring his son and spying on the Old Man, whose dog he has killed. The latter spends his time putting up lost-dog posters, unaware that ``Barney'' is dead. (While neither the old man nor the painter is identified by name, the dog is personalized.) The posters are an apparent link between the artist and the old man on a deeper level, and we are not greatly surprised when the narrator is transformed into a dog, but one that continues to drone on in a leaden interior monologue--indeed, the whole story is fogged in by Rabe's cumbersome prose. The dramatic economy Rabe displayed in such theater pieces as The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and other works eludes him here. His attempt to show psychopathic derangement is boring and self-indulgent, and scenes of rape and child abuse may be too violent for many readers. (Jan.)
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