Review of Tom Strelich’s novel, Dog logic

Dog logic; it makes sense

Some stories remind us not to take ourselves too seriously, to curb our hubris; perhaps remind us how invidious we can be. ‘Dog logic’ is dystopian, sort of, a book about a man, Hertell, wounded by the now (wits scrambled, wife left, career in ruins) and out of sorts. He is a keeper of a pet cemetery. A burier of dogs and cats. A friend to a man he calls Mister Frostie, who is, we later discover, one of the hidden. Hertell has recovered from a strange accident, struck down with memories of all time engineered via fragments of a bullet still stuck in his brain… and hearing things. Real things, it turns out. What he hears is a hidden time capsule: hundreds of people encapsulated against the coming nuclear Armageddon during the Kennedy era. Perhaps Hertell befriends them because he is out of time too. Hertell frees them, maybe, brings them to the surface, like a dog recovering some cherished bone.

This offers a writer of skill – and Tom Strelich is a writer of skill – a host of opportunities for commentary on the times in which we live, on the regulations (both political/legal and customary) by which we live those times, on what might just be wrong with us. Though I wish he was not quite so Randian in his contempt for a stylised evil government (and a host of government agencies who have contemptible agendas) much of what Strelich says about our consumerism, our selfishness, our lack[s – of faith, of belief, of honesty] rings true. Through an increasingly bizarre series of government interventions, then acts of hostility, we feel the horror of these 1960s refugees, a group that had “been totally forgotten since that time … buried in the electronic equivalent of the cavernous Government warehouse at the end of Indiana Jones.” They are a naïve group, Hertell thinks, with their faith in old fashioned virtues, in God, in government, in dogs. Our world (or at least the US government) ultimately rejects them. Perhaps because this hidden people has rejected us; the present, the wretchedly bereft of even dog logic. Strelich writes that they hidden peoples sensibility is that our current world is filled with people not “thinking much of anything at all, they were just kind of living, just like [Hertell]. He thought of a story that Bobby from FarmFuel told him about how you could put a frog in a pot of water and slowly bring it to a boil, so slow that the frog wouldn’t even notice that it was cooking.”

And though I think that Strelich, like Hertell, is “cynical” (not quite so literally as Hertell who “had the ability to smell such things, just like those sharks that can smell a blood drop on a Band-Aid from a hundred miles away”) about government – something I as an Australian and lacking the current American scepticism about the administration, may not feel is such a threat – I can still admire this book, with its wit, its connections to nature and its inventive joy.

Might we indeed be frogs put on to a slow boil?

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