In 2007, a New York attorney bumps into an old college buddy – and accepts his friend’s offer of a job in Dubai, as the overseer of an enormous family fortune. Haunted by the collapse of his relationship and hoping for a fresh start, our strange hero begins to suspect that he has exchanged one inferno for another.
First published: 2014
Disclaimer: I read the Dutch translation of this novel
Let’s just get this out of the way with: I did not like The Dog. In fact, if I hadn’t chosen to review it on a Dutch literary website, I would’ve just put it aside after about 50 pages and not have bothered with it again. Unfortunately for me, that wasn’t the case, and I sat through reading the entire thing.
While the blurb makes it sound as if something exciting might happen to the attorney (who remains nameless throughout the book), this story doesn’t really have a coherent plot. The attorney tells us about his job as the overseer of the Batros family fortune, about this weird little world that is Dubai and about his failed relationship in New York, but none of these topics tie into one overarching plot or theme.
The sense of pointlessness this achieved was strengthened by the more or less stream-of-consciousness-like way of writing. Usually, I’m quite the fan of stream-of-consciousness, but not in this case. The nameless attorney, who is a true anti-hero, mainly just whines about all the bad stuff that’s been done to him, but he never does anything about it. He just goes off on yet another tangent, in sentences that are sometimes over 200 words long.
It is clear that the attorney is struggling with himself and his life, even though he himself seems to be unaware of this at times. He leads an isolated life and when the only “friend” he does have is about to move away from Dubai, he becomes almost desperate. It would’ve been interesting to see the attorney deal with his problems, but instead he just ignores them, or even denies he has them. He’s fixated on Dubai, this strange place that becomes more than just a city; it’s a mysterious unknown figure, an intriguing phenomenon. Unfortunately, this too was not elaborated on enough for me to actually start caring.
That’s my problem with The Dog: I didn’t care. I felt no connection with the story or the protagonist.The incoherence of the storytelling and the at times long-winded way of writing are definitely connected with the emotional state of the nameless attorney. He views everything from a distance and remembers things from his past as if they were from another life. O’Neill set up his novel quite impressively, by letting the style and structure be a reflection of the attorney, and I think the lack of connection was established on purpose. However, this deeper meaning unfortunately didn’t make the reading experience any more pleasant for me.