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THE SHAPE OF THE FINAL DOG by Hampton Fancher

THE SHAPE OF THE FINAL DOG

And Other Stories

By Hampton Fancher

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-15823-0
Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Bizarre stories, some bordering on the absurd and others going over the border.

Fancher’s best story is “The Climacteric of Zackary Ray,” a tale of an over-the-hill movie actor who had once reveled in playing evil characters with a dash of humanity. Ray glories in the reflections of one reviewer who claimed his performances exhibited “the gears of corruption lubricated with honey,” but such praise is unrecoverable because it is so far in Ray’s past. In the present, he’s deep in gin and self-pity. Another story involving a failed actor—this one far more surreal than “Zackary Ray”—is called “Cargot.” The “hero” (though the boldness of the word is misplaced) reclaims a new identity but shuns a first name, choosing instead the initial “S” (yes, it’s French). Ultimately, he undertakes a long journey up the body of the wife of a hated producer, getting a kind of revenge of intimacy. The most involved story is “The Black Weasel,” which Fancher presents in two parts, separated by four other stories. Here, Spencer Hooler returns to his home in Townsville, Miss., from New York (where he works at a nightclub called “The Torture Chamber,” which he redundantly informs us is a “specialty club”) immediately after his mother’s death, accompanied by a black man known as Mot who barks rather than speaks. In a twist on Huck Finn, Spencer tries to turn Mot into a circus wild man. Along the way we meet a cast of eccentrics that include Spencer’s almost constantly drunk sister (called Sister). We also hear of Spencer’s dead father, who taught a cat to walk backwards. (Spencer’s sure of this because his mother showed him a black-and-white picture of it.)

Fancher’s writing is long on whimsy but short on humor.