Pity poor Brown Dog, the Everyman of the North Woods, whose luck would be nonexistent were it not bad.
Still, Brown Dog’s countenance is as cheerful as Don Quixote’s was woeful. Harrison’s comic hero—and in some ways alter ego—is as quixotic as they come, depending on kind winds to blow him a little money, some booze and a bit of righteous loving. In this exercise in well-effected repackaging, Brown Dog’s tales are lifted from other Harrison collections (e.g., The Farmer’s Daughter, 2009, and The Summer He Didn’t Die, 2005) and gathered in a single volume, which is just right. When we first met Brown Dog, he was a barroom horndog generally taken for an Indian (though, at first, he’s not so sure of that: “Now I’m no more Indian than a keg of nails”) and able to wheedle a drink or two out of passing anthropologists for his trouble. He was also the haunted discoverer of the body of an unmistakably authentic Indian below the waters of Lake Superior, waters so cold that bodies do not bloat and float in them. That body will turn up from time to time as Brown Dog leaves the Upper Peninsula on sometimes-unwanted quests—to Los Angeles, for instance, to hunt down a bearskin that’s been stolen from him and to Canada, in the company of some Native rockers. But mostly he hangs around in the pines, always just barely a step ahead of the law and in trouble in every other way; when we leave him in the hitherto unpublished novella He Dog, he is a step away from being pounded by “a strapping woman” named Big Cheryl, who reckons that the experience might just do B.D. some good.
Rollicking, expertly observed, beautifully written. Any new book by Harrison is cause for joy, and having all the Brown Dog stories in one place is no exception.