Apologizing to DogsMay 17th, 2012 by Alison Jean Ash
In a previous post on Joe Coomer’s work (http://pugetsoundblogs.com/wordspider/2011/10/10/book-review-beachcombing-for-a-shipwrecked-god/ ), I mentioned my desire to find his novel with the intriguing, irresistible title Apologizing to Dogs. Unfortunately the Kitsap Regional Library does not possess a copy. Last week my search ended, appropriately, in Serendipity, a used bookstore in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, where I also obtained copies of The Loop and A Pocketful of Names, which I have read (from the KRL) but did not own. What treasure!
Somebody liked Coomer’s books enough to purchase several of them, but, to my good fortune, chose not to keep them. I have two theories about how anyone could bear to give up such fine novels. First, many of the San Juan Islands, including Waldron (where I recently spent several glorious days without internet access or indeed a computer—and without producing a blog post), have neither bookstores nor libraries. On periodic shopping trips from such islands toFridayHarbor, dedicated or ravenous readers of limited means may trade in books they’ve read for credit toward purchasing books they haven’t. Alternatively, as several of Coomer’s books, both fiction and non-fiction, feature boats and islands, a bibliophilic sailor might acquire a taste for his books and bring them onboard to the San Juans from elsewhere. Storage aboard boats being sharply limited, such a sailor, no matter how wealthy, must occasionally unload some books to make room for more.
However this copy of Apologizing to Dogs arrived in Friday Harbor, I am now its happy owner and I read it immediately. It’s a sweetly goofy thing, a frothy confection compared to the depth of Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God or A Pocketful of Names (his most powerful and most painfully true work to date), but rich in Coomer’s trademark blend of insight, quirkiness and compassion.
All the action takes place in a single day, but it’s a wild ride in and out of a dozen eccentric minds belonging to a group of antique dealers on a run-down but historic street inFort Worth,Texas. All these folks are odd to some degree, a couple are flat out insane, and many are—perhaps unsurprisingly—living in the past. For the elders, this is reasonable; for some younger characters, less so. The revelations that take place during the course of the day, interspersed with childbirth, heart attacks and a tornado, kick the foundations out from under some cherished delusions, setting their holders free.
As for the title, yes indeed, some human characters do apologize—in thought, if not aloud—to the canine characters, rendered genuinely as always by Coomer.