Most of the time when I finish a book I’m thinking ‘that was good/great/OK etc. Right, what’s next?’ But finishing a book by Chris Kelso forces me to ignore that voice in my head and instead ponder further on exactly what I just read.
What is the book saying? Did I get it? Are my conclusions correct? Asking these questions makes me think back over the events of the book in an almost analytical sense, my enjoyment levels soaring to another level as I do so.
The Black Dog Who Eats the City resulted in exactly that. You could call this a novel, but it reads more like a collection of short stories, flash fictions, and poems. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was an anthology of sorts, each ‘piece’ adding to the backstory of the ‘thing’. This, of course, is a marvellous thing.
So this Black Dog, is it actually a living breathing dog? Well no, but yes, it does make an appearance at one point. This canine entity is eating the city, or is it eating the people, or their minds? Does it represent an illness, a madness, depression? I’m not sure entirely, maybe all three, which makes this book so amazing.
There are many characters in this story, most make fleeting cameos, some are referenced later on. But they all have one thing in common; they are trying to escape the Black Dog which is seemingly coming for them all. It tears families apart, feasts on people from the inside, and is responsible for many a stolen erection.
Apparently there’s an antidote to this sickness, The Cure. But can this be real? Some say it’s only a rumour, some refuse to believe and will stop at nothing to find it.
My favourite stories(?)/chapters(?) involved the characters Steve, a guy obsessed with the subtext of the movie Alien, and Bobby, a crazy ‘painter’ who’s anarchic outlook on life is both hilarious and saddening.
Some passages involve the struggles of the denizens in this dystopian nightmare, others are just downright weird. But obviously the weirdness is not just there for the sake of it. Kelso effortlessly paints a depressing picture of the world and its inhabitants with humour and darkness. This is transgressive fiction at its very best.
The thing I find with Chris Kelso’s writing is the ease at which you can follow the story, even if certain aspects don’t make perfect sense at first glance. There’re no pauses while you have to take a break and process what just happened, it just kind of flows perfectly.
I recently read Kelso’s I Dream of Mirrors and loved it so much I picked this one up straight away. I have a feeling I’m going to be picking up a few more once I finally get over the ride that was The Black Dog Eats the City.
Categories: book review