Friday Faves: After I Was thrown in the River and Before I Drowned by Dave Eggers

…in which I invite someone bookish to share one of their all-time favourite works of fiction and what it means to them. This week’s Friday Fave comes from writer Patrick Lenton. 

 I’M A FAST DOG. I’m fast-fast. It’s true and I love being fast I admit it I love it. You know fast dogs. Dogs that just run by and you say, Damn! That’s a fast dog! Well that’s me. A fast dog. I’m a fast- fast dog. Hoooooooo! Hooooooooooooo.

Personification is one of those unique techniques that you only really see prevalent in short stories. And like a lot of techniques that you only see in short stories, it sometimes screams ‘style over substance’. But not in this story by Dave Eggers, ‘After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned’ which is a part of his collection of stories How We Are Hungry, and is entirely from the manic and beautiful perspective of a really fast dog.

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What I love most about this story is its incredible energy and momentum, the feeling that you are swept along with this dog, with its quicksilver thoughts and observations, with its speed and enthusiasm. I constantly fall into the trap where I think this is one of Egger’s short short stories, something under 500 words, because there’s nothing stagnant in it, and it feels short and to the point. Whereas in reality, it’s on the longer side, it has a surprisingly long arc for such a fast dog.

Around two months ago my partner and I began the process of adopting a dog of our own, which was pretty much the most exciting thing we’ve ever done. Adopting a dog from a shelter or a pound can have different processes, some of them forcing you to apply first, see the puppy second, and then wait for approval from some kind of nebulous dog overseer. In the case of Ernest, the puppy we were lucky to adopt eventually, we had to go to the pound first, inspect the dogs and then apply and then wait a week. At the pound, the noise of all the dogs barking was deafening, the weight of mournful, hysterical, angry canine eyes palpable. In this one cage was a tiny Fox Terrier puppy, quivering gently and giving little licks through the cage. He wasn’t wet, but there was everything in his stance that suggested he had just been pulled out of a river. While I petted him, I thought of the Eggers story, a story I hadn’t read for years and years.

They brought me to the place with the cages and I yelled for days. Others were yelling too. Everyone was crazy. Then people and a car and I was at a new home.

After we applied for him, we had to leave him in the pound for the next four days, and all I could think about was such a little thing yelling in this crazy place. And I know it’s impossible to write properly from a dog’s point of view, hell it’s impossible to write from another human’s point of view but we attempt that kind of magic every day, but sometimes when I don’t know why Ernest is freaking out and crying or running up and down the hallway as fast as he can, I think of Eggers story and I realise Ernest is also a fast fast dog, and sometimes that helps him make sense.

Patrick Lenton blogs at The Spontaneity Review and at the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge. His writing has been featured in publications like Junkee, Spook Magazine, Going Down Swinging, Seizure, The Lifted Brow and Best Australian Stories. He edited The Sturgeon General and is a digital marketer at Momentum Books.

Your turn: What’s your favourite dog story?

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