Davis's strained second novel takes place on the fictional island of Santa Margarita y Los Monjes, a magical place where anything is possible. The narrative consists of loosely knit episodes detailing the adventures of some of the island's more colorful inhabitants. In one, a corpse becomes animated at an inopportune moment during the funeral service, and the sons of the deceased, known as the Boys, visit the cursed House of Low Women and subsequently lose their genitals. The Boys' cousin, a clerk and the book's narrator, becomes a dog walker in his spare time; he is nearly killed by security forces when his pack of dogs almost collides with the President-for-Life's motorcade. When asked to infiltrate the Happy Valley retirement complex by the suspicious President-for-Life, the narrator uncovers a death cult. In the final episode, the narrator becomes the campaign manager for the Boys, who, supported by foreign interests, are running against the President-for-Life. Despite the author's bountiful imagination, this short novel reads like a long in-joke that the reader isn't in on. (Aug.)
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Walking the Dog is an imaginative spoof on the absurdities and corruptions of life. There are references aplenty to walking the dog, but also to walking the dogs, this latter phrase understood as exercising a group of leashed canines, a job Herrera, the compliant narrator, takes on in a rare burst of entrepreneurial spirit. A lowly clerk and the unfortunate relative of some gross-out characters, Herrera has lived all his life on Santa Margarita y Los Monjes (there actually is an island by this name in an archipelago off Venezuela). But before the phrase is taken up literally, so to speak, and goes to the dogs,
it s used metaphorically. Walking the dog can mean hanging out, escaping obligations, doing what you want akin, perhaps to the yo-yo maneuver of letting the disc sleep near the ground, humming away, no further action needed. But walking the dog also has a woofter context here, woofter being rhyming Cockney slang for a gay announcing
himself by exposure, and there are other unfortunate connotations in demotic speech, Herrera lets on. But who knows for sure what is intended from a mischievously madcap author whose jacket bio identifies him as having been born and educated and traveled and who now lives and works.
Walking the Dog may be over the top for readers who like their satire strongly plotted and unalloyed with zany humor, but those who stay with this episodic, antic romp will be rewarded with some outrageous humor, much of it metaphorically sexual; pointed criticism (particularly on water boarding, globalization, spiritualism, democratic elections, information overload and retirement communities) and highly literate prose: the Marx Brothers meet the Oxford English Dictionary. The very first sentence sets the linguistic level: My Aunt Dolores is a querulous woman, much given to lamenting the many Woes she has dragooned into service over the years. Herrera, Dolores nephew, is cousin to his aunt s two lunatic sons, referred to only as The Boys. They are a Simian force of nature, who gaze out on life, when they re not destroying it stupefied (if that s not a tautology ). But, well, they re family.
Herrera s not immune from moral turpitude, but his transgressions pale in comparison with those of his fellow Margamonjans, especially the island s Fernando Marcos-like President for Life and his Imelda-like wife. But because Herrera s regarded as a nonentity; someone so inoffensive, so bland, so undistinguished, so boring, so innocuous, so devoid of any distinctive personality, he s tapped to be The Boys campaign manager when it s decided they should oppose the president. Don t ask.
The women, most with metaphoric names (Dolores, of course, means woe, which she invokes as a way of life) are monstrously fat, except for the Low Women (whores), and the men are corrupt, weak and ethically irresponsible, though these attributes are nothing compared with the sophisticated behavior by visitors from the overdeveloped world, many of them diplomats, business executives and charity workers. It s a bit much at times, especially the clever but strained malapropisms of a linguistic idiot savant, Magritte, housekeeper to Good God Donald, a reverend who mainly reveres himself; a witch doctor, Georgie Pujol, who suspends gravity for a while; the undertaker, Mr. Bagwell; and several other island cuckoos, but it s all good, uneven, if not always (thank
the Lord) clean, fun. And Davis scores some neat political, cultural and psychological points. At the end Herrera manages to settle in, in Joy s bed (a person and a state of mind) and find contentment. The world is where you re at. /Am I right or am I right?/Let the dog walk itself./Nobody but me. /Me and thee./So let it be. --The Independent