Sunday, 1 August 2010

Gone to the Dogs...

I can make no excuses.  We've gone dog mad here at Seafront Bookreader. After a very lonely time in the flat without a canine friend, we could bear it no longer and succumbed to the charms of the new puppy.  She is a mixture, but mostly Griffon.  She'll be ready to pick up in two weeks time and we're now dashing round the flat to puppy-proof. (Idle occupation, I am aware....)To while away the time till then I re-read Flush by Virginia Woolf re-published in this rather gorgeous addition by Persephone Books.  The plain and elegant front cover is beautiful enough, in a stern grey - but the end papers are a real delight, with swirling ambers and reds.  Virgina Woolf is one of those writers whose lives I know far more about than her books, to be honest.  I struggled with The Waves, Mrs Dalloway and A Room of One's Own - but Flush - well that was a cinch. The dog in question, is of course, the beloved pet of Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. (I will admit that I did think of naming new puppy the same, but then had visions of me calling in the rainy park 'Flush, come here, Flush!' and simply couldn't do it, as the associations with a loo is just a little too much.)
The life of the poet and the dog are intertwined in this wonderful study of calustrophobia and stifling emotions.  Poor Flush is forced into being a lap dog, being fed rich tid-bits from the slim white fingers (marred only by the occasional ink stains) of his mistress.  He has to negotiate the over stuffed and stifling bedroom, full of heavy dark furnture and the light deadening curtains and drapes, the invalid trays and medicines, and sits, cramped on the sofa, just being allowed into Wimple Street for a few breaths of fresh air. It made me question the nature of dogs.
This life is appalling for any dog, but however bad the circumstances, the reward for the human in the equation is unconditional love. The loyalty and sheer good will of dogs, must surely be applauded - or should it? Of course, sometimes they do bite back and it made me long for Flush to do so.
Flush dreams of open meadows and unfettered running, and luckily for him it does come in the well documented flit to Italy.  Of course he then has to suffer sharing his mistress, first with Robert Browning and then the child, and worse was to come.  In the heat of Italy and his unchecked roaming of the streets he develops mange.  The scissors are picked up and he is cruelly shorn of his coat.  Flush looks at his reflection and thinks, What am I now? Nothing. He was nobody, certainly not a cocker spaniel  But as he gazed, his ears bald now, and uncurled, seemed to twitch..... He danced on his nude, attenuated legs.  His spirits rose.  So might a great beauty, rising from a bed of sickness and finding her face eternally disfigured laugh with joy to think that she may never look in the glass agian, or fear a rival beauty.  
Of course the book is a wonderful conceit and talking as a dog is something that only the great writers can do without becoming all Marley and Me ...
If you haven't tackled Virgina Woolf, this is a good place to start.
Now, all I have to do is think of a name for the new dog..... But nothing that conjures up bathrooms.

1 comment:

  1. Something literary would be great but dogs in literature/drama are often a specific breed or character - Flush was a cocker spaniel, wasn't he although Dorothy's 'Toto' seems pretty indeterminate as L. Frank Baum describes him only as 'a little black dog, with long, silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose'.

    Rose Hovick's 'Chowsie' from Gypsy is possibly the right size and shape
    but doesn't your pup look rather like the sweet critter from Gremlins, so how about 'Mogwai' ? Just don't feed him after midnight ...