DOGS, DREAMS, AND MEN by Joan F. Kaufman


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Any idea that the title of this first novel about a young Manhattan woman's history of failed relationships and loneliness will become a unifying metaphor might as well be abandoned at the start--very little unifies this airy, disjointed but still somehow moving catalog of memories, night dreams, contemporary fears, and uneasy compromises in the life of a free-lance editor named Ann. Ann is 32 and in love when the novel opens--in love with Buck, who has left her to move to Texas (after telling her: ""You're not ugly. You're just very, very plain""), and with her small white dog, Emma Bovary. In the evenings, after Ann has taken Emma for a walk in Riverside Park, she dials Buck's Texas number and then (usually) hangs up before he answers; afterward she goes to sleep and dreams of disasters befalling Emma and other dogs whom she cannot reach in time to save. This forms a pattern through the next ten years of Ann's life: as she falls in love with Drew, a 22-year-old rock musician whom she meets in the park--and who soon marries someone else; with her boss at Odyssey Press, who loves her, too. but for some reason doesn't want to sleep with her (how plain is she?); and with sad, air-built fantasies when no men make appearances. Meanwhile, Ann fears for and clings to Emma--who in the end, it is implied (in a powerfully touching scene in which a neighbor of Ann's becomes unhinged while grieving for her dog), will die, leaving Ann entirely alone but strengthened for having known and loved Emma. Lists of dreams in which dogs are lost, mistreated, maimed and killed make for dull, and confusing, reading: just how they illuminate Ann's remembered childhood and fears for her life never becomes clear. But there are many redeeming pleasures here--not least, the mysteriously sad but stoical character of Ann herself. A promising first effort.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1988
Publisher: Norton