Monday, May 30, 2011

"We Think the World of You" by J. R. Ackerley

Now here is a curious little novel.  It is brief, and my remarks shall be brief.  Frank is a middle-aged, gay man who his besotted with a working-class amateur thief with a jealous wife and three, then four, children.  Johnny, Frank's beloved, also owns a German Shepherd named Evie.  It is sometimes difficult to tell whom Frank loves most, his unreliable boyfriend or this wild and undoubtedly dangerous dog.  Johnny goes to prison for a few months; the dog goes to stay with Johnny's mother and step-dad Tom.  Frank wants to rescue the dog from Tom's cruelty and neglect.  No one wants Frank to have the dog, out of spite.  Frank's money is the nexus connecting this disparate crew, and Frank wields it like a weapon, giving and withholding as circumstances dictate.

It's a sad little story really.  Frank's loneliness is a bottomless pit, and it is painful to see his slavish attachment to Johnny  received with such indifference.  The dog becomes the "child" they share, and it is a Solomon-like task to figure out who really owns her--or should.  In the end, Frank gets the dog but loses the boy.  At last Frank has an attachment that will not desert or disappoint him.  So what if he has to relinquish everyone else in his life because Evie won't tolerate anyone coming near?  So what if she devours his mail and will barely tolerate a leash?  She loves Frank, as Frank loves Johnny.  In one creepy scene, Frank describes Johnny's sexual arousal of the dog in the most positive terms.  There is obviously something sick going on, and one recoils from it.  It's not a bad novel though.  It does depict, very touchingly actually, the obsessions of a lonely man, whose dark mind is a place where he admits he doesn't want to go. 

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