I Insist You Borrow This Terrible Book And Tell Me How Much You Liked ItCommentary • people • Opinion • ISSUE 37•35 • Oct 3, 2001 By Jim Thrum Jim Thrum I know you love to read, and I think I have something you'll really, really dislike. I just finished this book called Dog Days, by J. Phillip Edward, and it changed my life. I've never read anything that so perfectly captures the shallow things I think and feel every day. You absolutely must borrow it. I know you're a busy person, but this book is just incredible. (To me, that is.) I mean, it blew my mind. I haven't read a book this meaningful since Catcher In The Rye back in high school, when I stopped reading books assigned to me by people with good taste. If you just give the first few cliche-ridden pages a try, I swear you'll be so put off, you'll want to throw it away. But I won't allow that, because I'll continue to hound you about it for weeks. Look, I have it right here, and I think it's perfect for me. It's this incredibly trite story about a man who can't connect with people, so he creates a world where he talks to his pets. Then, after a while, they start to talk back to him, only you don't know if they're actually talking to him or if it's all in his imagination. I mean, like I said, you probably will be able to put it down after the first few pages. After that, it really doesn't pick up. I really wish you'd read it, because I've been dying to discuss it with somebody. My mind has been reeling ever since I finished it. It's like a combination of William S. Burroughs' stream-of-consciousness and J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy sensibility. It's a little "out there," and the narrative is a total mess, but it kind of just barely makes sense once you've finished and digested it. Yes, it is a "pointless pile of claptrap." But why would you say such a thing? That kind of cynicism is just the sort of thing this book talks about. It says that people like you mask your real feelings with sarcasm and are incapable of genuine human expression. If anyone really needs to avoid this, it's you. You won't change your tune once you get to the part about the kleptomaniac monkey in the candy store. Or the part where the protagonist tearfully confesses his failings to a cat he's dressed as his mother. Well, okay, I'm just going to leave it here, and you can pick it up. Go ahead. I'll turn my back so you won't feel guilty or foolish. My back is turned. Do you have it? No? I can't believe you're so closed-minded! The predictable twist ending alone is worth the 572 pages you have to plod through. Actually, it's not, but it was to me. Dog Days is so much more than an endless string of cliches with a gimmicky ending slapped on, seemingly from out of nowhere. The characters are forgettable, too, failing to leap to life off the page. Like Salty, the wizened sea captain whose life of loneliness parallels that of the nameless protagonist. Or the ghost of Eva Braun, who tempts him and tries to keep him from doing good. It's a rich tapestry of bizarre, poorly established characters, implausible plot developments, and thinly veiled autobiographical conversations that a dumb guy like me can't help but fall in love with. Well, if you change your mind, I'd be happy to loan it to you. That is, if I haven't loaned it to someone else by then. Right now, I'm reading the new John Gray book, which you'll find every bit as bad as you expect. I'll have to get it to you when I'm done.