cover image Last Days of the Dog-Men: Stories

Last Days of the Dog-Men: Stories

Brad Watson. W. W. Norton & Company, $19 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03926-9

Dogs, in their simplicity and certainty, have an emotional stature equal to that of the people whose souls they seem to mirror in these eight precisely crafted stories. ""Humans,"" says the narrator of the title story, ""are aware of very little, it seems to me, the artificial brainy side of life... the doltish psychologies we've placed over our lives like a stencil. A dog keeps his life simple and unadorned. He is who he is, and his only task is to assert this."" This narrator takes up jogging with a greyhound that helps him get back into shape, until his wife has the dog put to sleep, to get back at him for cheating on her. In ""The Wake,"" a highly symbolic, surreal tale, a stray dog's death beneath a man's house coincides with his receipt in the mail of a packing crate that contains his ex-lover, whose accusatory voice confronts him with past mistakes and failures and his tendency, as it were, to let dead dogs lie. ""Bill"" concerns an octogenarian woman whose main companion, a trembling, almost blind poodle, means more to her than her husband, who's confined to a rest home. Dogs in these enigmatic stories are inextricably linked with human destinies, marking the trajectories of lives, marriages, jobs, secret affairs, divorces. Alabama-based Watson has uncanny insight into canine psychology and, beyond that, into how people project their own emotions, aggression, love and insecurities onto pets and the animal kingdom. (Apr.)