BOOKS: What The Dogs Have Taught Me

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2005:

What The Dogs Have Taught Me
& other amazing things I’ve learned
by Merrill Markoe
Villard Books (299 Park Ave., New York, NY
10171), 2004. 245 pages, paperback. $13.95.

This is not a book about dogs. Nor do
the dogs who feature in some of the essays teach
Markoe much worth writing about.
These essays are mainly about women:
their anxieties, hopes and fears, needs and
hates. “What living in Los Angeles has taught
me” might have been a more descriptive title.
Some of the essays do revolve around
dogs, including “Showering with your dog,” “A
conversation with my dogs,” and “Zen and the art
of multiple dog walking.”
But most of the book is devoted to the
life and times of a modern American woman. It is
written by an insider who is witty, worldly,
erudite, obsessive and risqué–often to the
point of being plain crude.

All this self-exposure and psychoanalysis
makes for fascinating reading, coated as it is
with comedy and neat literary flourishes. As an
ageing third world male of reclusive habits, I
could not fall further away from the target
market for the book. But Markoe’s brand of
self-deprecating humour and scathing insights
have a universal appeal, and I often found
myself laughing out loud.
Buried in animal welfare issues to the
point of chronic mild depression, as many
activists are, I found the book a tonic.
–Chris Mercer

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