A novel about, among other things, the therapeutic pleasures of walking the dog, but there’s also much here to drive a reader to weariness.
Davis (Walk On, Bright Boy, 2007) uses boatloads of whimsy, but it all seems rather canned, and as is usually the case with whimsical narratives, there’s not much at stake. The action—what little there is—takes place on Santa Margarita y Los Monjes, an obscure tropical island “where time is so abundant most people spend their days lounging about in hammocks, contemplating the arc of the sun, and laying bets on which fly the gecko gets next.” Given such a languid atmosphere, one would expect little to happen—and one would not be disappointed. The loosely structured chapters focus on a good-natured embalmer; a witch doctor who’s not subject to the laws of gravity; a dictator who’s picked on; big-breasted women, and so on. This is obviously an eclectic mix of characters, but they really don’t have much meaningful interaction. Davis remains content to milk the scenes for more humor than they’re worth. The President-for-Life, for example, is usually abbreviated with the acronym PIFL, and while this is (perhaps) mildly amusing the first time, it gets decidedly well-worn by the end of the novel. The narrator’s Aunt Dolores (Dolor—get it?) lugubriously indulges in an endless litany of “Woes” (always capitalized) and “honor[s] those who embody the truth that death is the only reality after Woe…” She expresses antipathy to any expression of optimism. Likewise, the narrator ends every chapter except the last with a variation of “it’s time to walk the dog.” This constant elbowing to constantly remind the reader how clever the narrator is quickly becomes tedious and heavy-handed rather than lightly and comically ironic.
While the novel is supposed to make us reflect on our own money-driven and serious-minded world (in contrast to that of the “Margamonjans”), it’s rather more playful than a body can stand.