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Funeral for a Dog ~Thomas Pletzinger; Ross Benjamin (Translator)

April 22, 2011

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
322 pages
ISBN: 9780393337259
Source:  Publisher via Library Thing

Let me start by saying that I had no idea what Borromean rings were (by name) when I started reading this but it would be helpful to have the image in your mind when you open the first page. Those are they, right there, looking at you in the face. Click the picture to read more. The theme of three stories, lives or other concepts, linking seamlessly together is woven in many manifestations through the book. Three players, three stories, three stages of each story, etc., are the basics for the foundation of the propelling forward of the storyline. I loved the concept, even though, overall, it becomes too complicated to summarize or even explain well.

There isn’t much in terms of legitimate work on Daniel Mandelkern’s plate. He is, by training, an ethnologist but has sold out to a job that, well, pays. He works for his wife, Elizabeth, as a journalist, though he is less than sure about the success of this arrangement. In the middle of a heated debate regarding the future of their yet un-conceived offspring, Elizabeth sends Mandelkern off to investigate a human interest piece on a rather odd children’s book author.

Said author goes by Dirk Svensson but he doesn’t go by it to too many people as he’s been hidden away for quite some time. His recent and wildly successful book,  The Story of Leo and the Notmuch, is about as weird as the writer himself, brining back strands of Irving’s bizarre children’s book references in Widow for One Year. Svensson’s only other publication is an equally strange account of a much different sort. An emotional manage trois, pieced together, through the book by all players in the story, is the main story line. His friends and partners, Tuuli and Felix, though never the voices of the book held in this reader’s hands, tell more of the story of Svensson and, ultimately, Mandelkern than the two leading men.  The other resonant, though secondary voice included in the story telling, is the vivacious, if sometimes inappropriate, Kiki Kaufman.

The third “ring”, if you will, is the voiceless wonder, Lua. He may have only three legs but he has more story to dispatch than his speaking counterparts. I have never read a book in which an animal plays such a passively active role. It’s impossible to explain his impact on the book but one might guess that, given the title, his contribution weighs heavily on most of the story.

Beautifully crafted and expertly written, this is, hands down, one of the neatest books I’ve ever read. It has shadows of Pynchon, Hemingway and Irving which, if you know me at all, you know is something bound to make me smile. I highly recommend this to anyone in need of a good but deep laugh, a reflection on the darker and sometimes weirder parts of life, it is, more than anything, a simple, albeit soul-searching read.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Diane permalink
    April 22, 2011 8:02 am

    I was very curious about this book. I need to get to my copy as I loved reading what you said about it.

    • April 22, 2011 8:26 am

      It’s a great book! Because of the international origin, I’m not sure it’s made as big of a splash in the U.S. but it’s well worth finding if you can. Enjoy!

  2. April 22, 2011 8:48 am

    Hummm — now I think I need to track this down. I have issues with Pynchon but not with Hemingway or Irving. I like the Borromean ring idea too.

    • April 22, 2011 11:02 am

      I think the biggest Pynchon comparison is in the amount of characters and random bits of absurdity. The writing is way more lucid and not as obnoxiously Pynchon like. It’s a lot more like Irving in the plot line and Hemingway in the style. You’ll probably read and think I’m crazy for even drawing parallels to Pynchon if you don’t like him but there were random bits where it reminded me of Gravity’s Rainbow.

  3. April 22, 2011 9:07 am

    I’ve never heard of this book but you’ve made it sound very thought provoking. I’m adding it to my wish list.

  4. April 22, 2011 10:10 am

    Wow, I never heard of this, but you sure make it sound good!

    • April 22, 2011 11:03 am

      I hope it gains some amount of readership if not outright popularity. Let me know what you think if you read it!

  5. April 22, 2011 10:13 am

    This does sound like a rather strange but interesting book, and your review is one of the first I have read on it. I am glad that you enjoyed it and that it was such a unique read. I am going to have to add this book to my wish list.

    • April 22, 2011 11:04 am

      I think you might really like it. It’s interesting in a philosophical sense and it’s sort of off the beaten path. I don’t think it’s going to be a block buster…more a cult classic but I do think you’ll enjoy it.

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