Reviews||

There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff

18th Aug 2011

There_Is_No_Dog_Meg_Rosoff

Her latest effort, There Is No Dog, is a challenging and subversive work that will appeal to language arts teachers and their students. What teenager hasn’t imagined herself as the center of the universe at some point?

Rosoff takes this natural occurrence to its extreme, casting the creator and monarch of our planet as a lazy, self-centred, hormonal 15-year old boy named Bob.

Rosoff’s creation hymn is a bold revision of the Biblical account. There are multiple goddesses and gods here. They behave like indolent, old money families vacationing in the Hamptons.

Bob’s mother, Mona, wins our world in a poker game and gives it to Bob. She would rather drink and gamble than be saddled with responsibility. She spends the rest of the book alternately indulging Bob’s slacker lifestyle and needling him to change.

Bob’s apathy has serious consequences for humanity. He falls for Lucy, a virginal zookeeper. As Bob acts out the script of male adolescent lust, his mercurial moods cause global flooding, storms, and countless deaths.

One way of reading or teaching this book is as an environmental polemic. Rosoff accurately invokes blighted oceans and wrecked lives. Since God is, at best, indifferent and negligent, it is up to humanity to repair the damage we have wrought.

Helping Bob is his assistant, Mr. B. Though not a god, Mr. B runs the planet from behind the scenes. With all Earth’s problems piled on his desk, Mr. B works around Bob to keep his creation from sliding into chaos.

He is one of only two immortals who show interest in the human race. The other is Estelle, daughter to the tyrannical Mr. Emoto Hed. In another poker game, Mona gambles and loses Bob’s pet Eck to him.

Eck is a doglike creature, the last of his race, who Bob also treats with indifference. Mr. Emoto Hed plans to cook and eat the Eck, and Estelle’s attempts to rescue the Eck form a subplot that draws in Mr. B.

This is another teachable theme of There Is No Dog. Estelle shows us how to use power and intelligence in the service of those less fortunate. Mr. B, who at first makes no move to help the Eck, is swayed by Estelle’s kindness and persistence.

Although I recommend There Is No Dog, I found it disorienting at first. There is almost no emphasis on setting, and Rosoff is not as interested in a narrative as she is the inner thoughts of her characters.

Rosoff freely shifts from past to present tense when she wants to emphasize pivotal events. I oriented myself by viewing the book as an extended parable in novel form.

The book’s irreverent tone and deadpan narrative voice make it a good choice for middle grades and high school students, and for adults who refuse to grow up and read spy thrillers or courtroom dramas.

Published this month by Penguin, you can buy it in hardback for £7.12, or for Kindle for £6.49.

Rating: 4/5

Other recommended reading: How I Live Now; Just In Case; What I Was; The Bride’s Farewell.

Steven Watson

Comments

  • Sarah says:

    I love Meg Rosoff’s books; this one sounds really interesting, but its abstract nature sounds quite challenging for a lot of teenage readers. I’d also recommend ‘How I Live Now’ to anyone who hasn’t read her before.

    • Jane Bradley says:

      Thanks for the comment, Sarah, I’m unsure about the sound of this one too – but I loved How I Live Now. I read it when I was doing work experience at Penguin when I first moved to London years ago, and I was so in awe of how accomplished it was as a début, and how beautiful and sophisticated it was for a YA novel. I’ve never got round to reading any of her other books since though, sounds like I should probably rectify that!

    • Steven Watson says:

      Hi Sarah. I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right, it is a challenge for young readers.

      I am adding “How I Live Now” to my reading list, thanks to you. In my experience it’s the one people usually identify with Rosoff.

  • Cariad Martin says:

    This sounds really out there and quite original, I’m definitely adding to reading list. Also, I’m not going to lie I’d have definitely picked this up in a bookstore anyway because of cover.