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DOG LOVE by Marjorie Garber

DOG LOVE

By Marjorie Garber

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-81871-X
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 Dogs are not only our best chance of finding unconditional love, suggests Garber (Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Erotocism of Everyday Life, 1995) in this wry, literate study of dogs in human culture. They are also the repository of all those model human properties that, in our cynicism, we have ceased to find in each other. ``Dog love is local love, passionate, often unmediated, virtually always reciprocated, fulfilling, manageable. Love for humans is harder.'' Dogs have, says Garber, become the vehicle for our deepest feelings of love and loss, and manifest those qualities--courage, responsibility, loyalty, a sense of values--by which we measure ourselves, but which we rarely exhibit. Garber elaborates on this notion by delving into all manner of dog stories: Dickensian, Wordsworthian, and picaresque modes of dog biography; dogs as military heroes; dogs as Odyssean adventurers (Lassie); dogs as hearthkeepers (Odysseus's Argus). She notes what Descartes, Bentham, Dr. Johnson, Xavier Hollander, Shakespeare, and Virginia Woolf, among others, had to say on the subject, arguing that ``dog stories are universal narratives.'' Garber smartly charts the contested ground that separates human from canine, touching on dog psychology, neo-anthropomorphism, dogs and the law, and the social hierarchy of the stud book. And Garber, whose previous books have focused on the crossing of gender boundaries, delights, often hilariously, in the bisexuality of that unconditional love: Guy or gal, dog or bitch, both love it both ways. No good dog story would be complete without a foray into the realms of bestiality (``he'll never look surprised at something you ask him to do, never make you ashamed, and will never, never talk,'' Garber quotes one enthusiast as saying). Then Garber closes with a stirring chapter on dog loss and the human and canine experience of grief. Quick-witted and entertaining. A dog's life never seemed such a fair prospect. (b&w photos, not seen) (Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection)