Read The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser Online

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Tom Loxley, an Indian-Australian professor, is less concerned with finishing his book on Henry James than with finding his dog, who is lost in the Australian bush. Joining his daily hunt is Nelly Zhang, an artist whose husband disappeared mysteriously years before Tom met her. Although Nelly helps him search for his beloved pet, Tom isn't sure if he should trust this new fTom Loxley, an Indian-Australian professor, is less concerned with finishing his book on Henry James than with finding his dog, who is lost in the Australian bush. Joining his daily hunt is Nelly Zhang, an artist whose husband disappeared mysteriously years before Tom met her. Although Nelly helps him search for his beloved pet, Tom isn't sure if he should trust this new friend. Tom has preoccupations other than his book and Nelly and his missing dog, mainly concerning his mother, who is suffering from the various indignities of old age. He is constantly drawn from the cerebral to the primitive--by his mother's infirmities, as well as by Nelly's attractions. THE LOST DOG makes brilliant use of the conventions of suspense and atmosphere while leading us to see anew the ever-present conflicts between our bodies and our minds, the present and the past, the primal and the civilized....

Title : The Lost Dog
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780316001830
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Lost Dog Reviews

  • Katherine Furman
    2019-06-15 07:31

    A shitty book that talks way too much about shit. I'm hard-pressed to even elaborate on it because I almost don't feel like it's worth it. I will just say that for a book about a lost dog, you never get any genuine feeling from the dog loser about his lost dog. Oh, sure, the author throws in that the guy misses his presence when he sees a water bowl or something, but she doesn't sell it. It never feels real. Instead the book is about some guy who loves some artist (who actually has an interesting back story, but it takes so long to unravel the mystery that it barely seems worth it in the end. And it's never even tied up resolutely to boot!) and his shitty childhood and he happens to have lost his dog. There's a point in the book where a shelter worker tells him that if he had a dog on a 20 foot rope and lost the thing, then he doesn't deserve the dog. I think this was supposed to make the reader feel indignant on behalf of the main character, but that was the only line where I thought, "Hey, she's right!"Instead of focusing on the title character, the book delves into this guys childhood and his relationship (past and present) with his mother and the role that feces plays in that relationship. Who cares!? Not me. Instead of shedding light or making some profound revelations on childhood development, it just describes a lump of shit in a shoe. I guess I'm not on the same wavelength as this book, and I should stop reading books that The New York Times Review of Books praises for their prose and not their story because I NEVER end up liking them. I mean this thing had awful highfalutin poetry spliced not at all smoothly throughout. I just can't take it when people are all, "oh, look what I can quote." Is the problem that I'm too low-brow for this book? Perhaps, but more likely the problem is this book tries to be too "literary" for its (or the reader's) good. Blech.

  • Tracy
    2019-06-15 12:22

    I have some really mixed feelings about this book. Parts of it were wonderful, engrossing - I'd get caught up in a line of story and enjoy the trip to the end.The problem was, many of them didn't mesh. Things were often unclear. Some of the lines were - awful. Lines like 'the sweat and spice of her spoor' made me cringe. I don't even want to get started on the annoying tendency (so very modern, no?) to focus on human waste. It comes across as trying to be edgy and raw and instead is predictable and annoying.And yet, the story of Atwood walking into the ocean - that was well done. Tom's childhood, his father - I loved those. Young Iris was interesting. The relationship between Iris and Tom ultimately failed for me. I got no real feeling that they were mother and son, no sense of history - which is particularly sad in a book that kept trying to tell their story of each other. Tom's relationship with Nelly was singularly lacking. It never worked. The only relationship that felt even remotely real was the hints of what it was like with Karen, and, of course, the dog.

  • Nina
    2019-06-13 07:47

    This book was beautiful! Meditations on art, love, relationships, connections with dogs, Melbourne, rural Victoria, and just exquisitely written. I felt like I was reading a painting.

  • Velvetink
    2019-06-04 10:36

    **** A Henry James Question.;I still don't have time for writing reviews until end of semester - else I'll fail my course & I have missed too many days this month with this consumptive-like cough to warrant that happening without fueling the fire. Anyhow I could not comment on this one till I had read some Henry James (of which I've now read one novella of his - In the Cage). Why the need to read Henry James? Other's have likened de Kretser's writing to James and also the main character in The Lost Dog is writing a book on James. So far there is no obvious connection other than intensity of rumination. The link I feel is more tenuous and alludes perhaps to ghosts, which abound here but not In the Cage. Perhaps The Ambassadors which I have, might guide me. Anyone care to suggest another Henry James I should read?. I've look at the GR reviews on various James books, everyone seems to think he's a genius but can't say why? Is there any other author who writes like James that I should be aware of - perhaps more modern that might help me access him?************************************************** Library borrow. Something light. thoughts to come.

  • Kirstie
    2019-05-16 11:42

    I've been really getting into Aussie fiction as of late. This is an author I've not read before but she has a very interesting writing style. She's actually Sri Lankan but has been living in Australia for most of her life. The protagonist of this novel also immigrated to Australia when he was a teenager after beginning it in India. The novel doesn't focus on race nearly as much as it does aging, family, and a mysterious sort of relationship between a writer and an artist. One thing disarming about the novel is the sheer honesty and absence of kitsch that is apparent throughout the text, especially when tackling the nature of the relationship between the protagonist and his mother. I also liked how it left somewhat open ended in solving a mystery that we very slowly gain bits of pieces of information about, as the main character himself does, throughout the story. The lost dog is, in some ways, what ties it all together but in a completely different way seems to be a metaphor for something very important that is unfathomly found eventually.Some memorable quotes:p.85 "Tom said the scene reminded him of a woodcut in an old book of children's tales. It was like something remembered from a dream, said Nelly. 'Something marvelous and strange you can almost see under the skin of reality.'p.146 "A perfect city is one you can walk out of."p.183 "As long as we stay with Audrey, we have a roof over our heads. What can go wrong if you have a roof over your head?""It can fall in and crush you," said Tom.p.233 "Tom knew that a lucky country was one where history happened to other people."p.248-249 "To possess a city fully, it is necessary to have known it as a child, for children bring their private cartographies to the mapping of public places."p. 285 "She sculpted the past according to whim, as a child plays with the future, each having an abundance of material.""How could you know when something was the last time? wondered Iris. The last time a stranger turned to look at you in the street, the last time you could stand up while putting on your knickers, the last time there was no pain when you tried to turn over in bed, the last time you imagined your life would change for the better..."p.298 "What was overwhelming, however, was the astonishment: the sheer scandal of falling. Tom was returned, in one swift instant, to childhood; for children, not having learned to stand on their dignity, are accustomed to being slapped by the earth."

  • Sarah Norman
    2019-05-20 13:28

    So onto THE LOST DOG by Michelle de Krester. This tells the story of a man who loses his dog. He is in the middle of some kind of half hearted love affair, and we cut back and forth between the love affair and the hunt for the dog. This is one literary-ass book. It is so literature I kind of want to barf a bit. It was full of images. There they are buying like whatever, noodles or something, and the noodle seller has . . . exquisite hands. Oh yes. Oh god. Part way through I just had to stop and read the author bio and the back flap, and what do you know, she is a professor of English Lit. Barforama. But other than that it was okay. And don't worry I'm still also on Trollope's DR THORNE. More on this later. More of my reviews at www.booksof2010.blogspot.com

  • Tiffany
    2019-05-25 07:45

    The first (for me) of this year's Booker Prize nominees. I loved the style of it, but the substance left much to be desired. The main character was distant but not unsympathetic, but I never understood what pulled him towards Nelly. His interest in her made me care less about him, not more.As a slightly irrelevant side note, I wish every writing fiction 101 course would start by explaining that no one post-Daphne du Maurier should think they can successfully pull off the character without a name. Because they can't. Even when that unnamed character is a dog.

  • Dorian
    2019-06-10 06:34

    I at once loved and was exasperated by this book. I'm a sucker for things Australian, and the descriptions of the bush really worked for me. And even though the book sometimes seems a bit too obviously influenced by Benjamin and Barthes, it still put those theoretical precurpsors to useful and not-entirely-lame use. Plus, it's portrayal of academia is not completely crazy and misguided, which is a feat in itself. The main problem is its tendency towards what I call the Ondaatje school of self-satisfied, solemn overwriting.But I'm impressed enough to hunt for de Kretser's backlist.

  • Bridget
    2019-06-12 11:46

    This was a book that sounded interesting from the info on the dust jacket, and I enjoyed reading it. The story is written mainly from the viewpoint of Tom Loxley, a grown man who currently lives in Australia, but spent many of his growing up years in India. At the beginning of the book, his dog runs away, having broken the knot in the rope that tied him up. Loxley is afraid of what might happen to his dog, lost in the Australian bush, and sets out to try and find him.He ends up being helped by Nelly Zhang, an artist he knows and with whom he is smitten. We get to know Nelly and her artistic friends, as well as learning the story of Nelly's husband, who mysteriously disappeared years ago. Tom Loxley becomes obsessed with her story, and wants to determine whether or not she may have killed her husband.Also playing a large role in the book is Tom's mother, Iris, who is living in the guest house of a relative as she declines from age, and what sounds to be Alzheimers. I enjoyed this book, as it was different from a lot of others I have read. The descriptions of Tom Loxley's childhood in India, and the Australia which is still so strange to him, were well written and interesting. His swings of mood regarding whether or not he will find the dog (who is never actually given a name in the book) seem real, especially if you have ever had a pet suddenly disappear. The story goes back and forth between the present day and the past, weaving the lives of the characters into the plot fairly seamlessly. I found these two passages from the book to be particularly striking:(When Tom is remembering how Nelly told him about different homes in the Artists' Preserve, where she had her home and studio)"To possess a city fully, it is necessary to have known it as a child, for children bring their private cartography to the mapping of public spaces. The chart of Tom's secret emblems was differently plotted. Oceans separated from the sites featured on it."(And this one especially, when someone talks to him about the possibility of never finding the dog)"'There's a limit to how much you can do ... It's not like losing a kiddie, is it? Count your blessings he's only a dog.'Love without limits was reserved for only his species. To display great affection for an animal invariably invoked censure. Tom felt ashamed to admit to it. It was judged excessive: overflowing a limit that was couched in philosophical distinction, as the line that divided the rational, human creature from all others. Animals, deemed incapable of reason, did not deserve the same degree of love."This story intrigued me enough that I am likely to try and read some of de Krester's other work to see if she is someone I want to follow.

  • Janet
    2019-05-30 09:34

    This book is beautifully written and artfully told. I would have gotten more out of it if I had read more Henry James more recently. The insights into human relationships are often unexpected and astutely observed. It is not an obvious book in any way; it moves between time periods, advancing the story piecemeal. This is largely successful, although at times just served to get me lost. My only criticism is that there were moments where the writing felt a little contrived. Many of the reviews here are profoundly disheartening. It is a very literary novel. If you want a linear page-turner that unfurls predictably from its title and reveals a neat little conclusion in the last chapter, you are in the wrong section of the bookstore.

  • sisterimapoet
    2019-05-29 10:27

    Very well written although at times the prose felt too artful and a bit cloying. Perhaps a case of too much of a good thing?I would have liked a little bit more focus on Tom and his dog and Tom and his mother than Tom and Nelly and the art scene as they annoyed me a bit.I liked the way the search for the dog allowed Tom to search his memory, and his heart as well for other missing thoughts and feelings.For further thoughts on this book and other Booker Prize nominated titles - the kingfisher scrapbook

  • Biancabbdoll
    2019-05-18 14:26

    I always wanted to read this book. But one day I was stopped outside a traffic light near her (the authors) house & I saw a huge dog (yes looks like the cover dog) do a gigantic poop on the footpath infront of a bunch of kids that were walking past.I then watched the owner Michelle de Kretser yank the dog back home without scooping up the poop.Now it has ruined the book for me. Everytime I see the title I think of the authors huge dog, pooing with reckless abandon and her lack of respect for our inner city streets and other inhabitants.

  • Chai1965
    2019-06-15 10:36

    4.5 stars. I love de Kretser's turn of phrase. So many sections I underlined on my kindle. An example (which may lose something out of context), about the narrator's disapproving aunt Audrey with whom his mother lives: "Audrey said, 'I draw the line at nursing'. There were many such lines, existence taking on for his aunt the aspect of a dense cross-hatching."

  • Deborah
    2019-06-12 06:47

    An overarching, aching mystery with exquisitely observed mundane detail.

  • Ed
    2019-06-07 06:43

    Really fine piece of contemporary fiction set in Melbourne Australia and written by a Sri Lankan immmigrant with amazing prose, complex insights and complicated but skillful use of flash backs.

  • Sheila
    2019-05-27 11:20

    In the acknowledgments section of this book it states that it draws directly and obliquely on various works by Henry James. Well since I have not read any Henry James I missed all that. I saw that this book was called The Lost Dog, and silly me picked it up looking for a story about a dog. But after finishing the book, I know many personal, desciptive details of an old woman's repeated fecal accidents. I know personal details about an artist named Nelly and her missing husband. But I don't even know the name of the dog mentioned in the title. This book is not about a dog. Don't call a book The Lost Dog if you are not going to even tell me the name of the dog.

  • Christine
    2019-06-14 07:27

    Picked this up at the library because the description on the inside flap intrigued me. When I got to the end of the book I thought "What happened?" It's a story about a man who as a child moved from India to Australia who is fascinated by a woman artist, Nelly. He has just lost his dog in the bush and is searching for him and dealing with his aging mother who has become incontinent. The narrative jumps back and forth in time; it was confusing and difficult to remember characters when their names popped up again after a long space. I was disappointed and I really am not sure what happened in the story, but I might try another book by this author some day.

  • Sushipink
    2019-06-04 06:30

    Beautifully written and compelling read.

  • Rosalie
    2019-06-03 07:20

    I just couldn't finish this. I never got to that point where I cared for the characters. It's unusual for me not to finish a book, but when a book stops me from wanting to read it is time to give up.

  • Shuriu
    2019-05-21 11:41

    At the same time, he sensed a deadpan teasing: her cut-price instinct dangled in his face. And beyond the self-guying, something deeper and more characteristic still: an impulse to salvage what had been marked for oblivion. An It girl peddling Foster's; the tottering, cotton-reel stack of a stranger's vertebrae; an archangel with upcast eyes and a faint reek of glue: nothing was too trivial to snatch from the flow of time. (p. 125-126) Redeemed from mere utility, its coasters and dishes were multiple yet individual. They were as serial as money and partook of its abstraction. They exceeded the world of things. They erased labor, seeming to have been magicked into existence. Tom found himself fighting down an impulse to steal one. (p. 126) To spend time with her was to wander through a cabinet of curiosities. She remarked on a shoe jutting like a muzzle from a hollow high in a tree. Tom realized that objects she hoarded were symptomatic of a more profound desire: to drag moments of perception from the gray ooze of oblivion. (p. 214) She told him about the Japanese practice of keeping a treasured object hidden away and taking it out to look at only now and then. "Because then it seems marvelous each time." (p. 215) In the mid-1990s, Nelly had begun showing photographs of wooden printer's trays of the kind once used to store metal type in compartments of different sizes. She would paint the sides of her trays to resemble elaborate carving. Within these frames, some compartments were left empty; others held an objet or image. Tom studied a tray whose sumptuous recesses had been lined with the royal blue velvet of jeweler's cases. Nestled within were banal found objects, one to a niche in reverent display: a pineapple-topped swizzle stick, a barrette, a condom wrapper, two dead matches, a doll's dismembered arm. These items deposited by the human tide passing through its streets bore witness to to the city's energy and erosion. Tom was reminded also of the fascination detritus holds for the very young, of the way a small child will pass over a costly toy in favor of absorbed play with bottle tops or a rag or the foil from a toffee, investing the valueless things of the world with joy. (p. 223) And still Tom would never be able to shake off the notion that the West was a childish place, where life was based on elaborate play. Reality was the old, serious world he had known when he was young, where there were not enough toys to deflect attention from the gravity of existence and extinction. (p. 131) The memory of this woman's living room, in which a long-lobed Buddha reclined on a mantelpiece and frankincense smoldered beneath a portrait of the Dalai Lama, floated through Tom's mind. He let pass. Evidence of the subcontinent's age-old traffic with the West rarely found favor with Westerners. To be eclectic was a Western privilege, as was the authentication of cultural artifacts. The real India was the flutter of a sari, a perfumed dish, a skull-chained goddess. Difference, readily identified, was easily corralled. Likeness was more subtly unnerving. (p. 163) The pursuit of knowledge: as a young man he had thought it honorable, a twentieth-century way to be good. His faith had wilted when exposed to departmental realpolitk, had shriveled before the academy's wholehearted adoption of corporate values and the pursuit of profit over larger aims. Yet a trace of his original reverence had endured, as a vial of scent perfumes a drawer long after the last subtle drops have evaporated. (p. 220)Nelly Atwood failed the first universal test of womanliness, which is to appear meek. She failed the first Australian test of virtue, which is to appear ordinary. (p. 139) Then he said, "Sometimes I think I'll never really get what's going on in a painting." He had never admitted this before. It required an effort. "Is it so different from what you do?" Nelly said, "Reading a book, looking at a painting -- they're both things that might change you." Tom noticed that where he spoke of knowledge, Nelly talked of transformation. It confirmed his sense that pictures exceed analysis. Art was ghostly in a way, he thought, something magical that he recognized rather than understood. (p. 147-148) The most blatantly trumped-up tale captured Arthur's sympathy, so that swindlers of every stripe sought hum out with stories of widowed mothers or fail-safe investments. A lean, ageless individual who went by the name of Perry once laid siege to him for a month with whiskey and sagas of the Brazilian interior, at the end of which time Arthur agreed to relieve him of three uncut diamonds he claimed to have wrested at knifepoint from a dishonest garimpeiro. The contract had been sealed with a fresh bottle when Perry's angry blue eyes filled with tears. "You have driven me to honesty," he announced, and blew his nose violently. He reached for the soft leather pouch containing the pebbles and flung it over his shoulder into a bed of shocking-pink anthuriums. The incident made its way back to Iris, who placed herself in her husbands path with her hands on her hips. "I told you about that Perry," she began, her voice ominously even. "As soon as I set eyes on him, large as life and twice as ugly, didn't I tell you, "Here is a humbug'?" It was true. Even Tom, then aged eight, had been struck by the unreliability of Perry: flagrant in every facet of the man, from his winking tiepin to his golden-cornered smile. "Perry's Pebbles": it became family shorthand for the preposterous; for a tale too good to be true. Arthur had been dead a decade when an exchange occurred that cast the episode forever in a different light. Seeking to amuse a girl he was involved with, Tom had set about skewering a bombastic acquaintance. Lizzie said abruptly, "For Christ's sake." She broke off whatever task engaged her and turned to face him. "There are alternatives to seeing people." "Why don't you run them past me." (Startled, but not out of irony.) The girl opened and closed one hand. It was a gesture already familiar to Tom, signifying exasperation. She said, "Try seeing into them. That'd be a start." Lizzie proved transient. But the rebuke lodged in Tom. He thought of Perry, with his glinting ready smile. Arthur had seen honesty in the man, and his son realized, with a little stab of surprise, that it was Arthur, after all, who had been right. If, on numerous other occasions, his father had been duped, he was surely not the party cheapened the process. There are illusions that are glorious. If the shabby surface extended to the depths, it was still infinitely grander to project the other case. (p. 166-168) He made notes on technique, composition, the use of color and space. It was methodology that had served him well as a student, the close scrutiny and faithful recording of what was before him producing gleams of insight, bright fissures opening in his mind. (p. 173) Tom analyzed and speculated. He had been trained to perform these operations. He sat in his study before shining windows and filled them with words. It required connective tissue, conclusions; since one thing leads to another in narrative. He was aware of a degree of wrenching entailed. But a story need not be true to be useful. He was happier in those weeks than he had been in years. (p. 173) Audrey, disliking waste, never disposed of a grievance that had not been squeezed dry. She wished to impress upon Tom that his mother had inconvenienced her that morning, and so, following him into the kitchen to complain of delay, delayed further. (p. 176) Charity, as those who have endured it know, is not easily distinguishable from control. (p. 178-179) Audrey concentrated on economics: the wastefulness of eating out amplified by the extravagance of neighborhood shopping. Did Iris realize the delicatessen was run by Jews? She possessed the despot's talent for representing oppression as benevolence and was herself entirely swayed by the performance. (p. 179) It was a pattern repeated in Audrey's dealings with all she encountered. In the theater of her mind, as in the classical drama, brutality occurred offstage. What was on view, above all to herself, was only the aftermath of invisible carnage. So Tom observed, with the cold-eyed scrutiny of adolescence. It left him resolved to be clear about motive. Which, admirable when directed inward, strengthened his cynicism about motive in others. (p. 179) Iris had been taught to darn by French nuns, but that was scarcely a marketable asset in an economy where the notion of mending rather than replacing was already as quaint as a madrigal. (p. 182) Around the time of his thirtieth birthday, he grew conscious that the narrowing of his life had begun. Karen and he still took pleasure in each other's company, sought it in each other's flesh. They were working hard, starting to make money. But from time to time there would swim into Tom's mind a page from a book he had owned when very young. Within the book, paper tabs could be pulled or rotated to bring illustrations to life. One of them had stirred the child's imagination with special pungency. It showed a cottage with two front doors set in a garden filled with flowers and birds. A tab on the left flipped open the corresponding door and pushed out an apple-cheeked boy in blue breeches; the right-hand tab produced a girl in a gingham pinafore. Again and again, the child Tom trundled out the boy, the girl, singly, together. They were Boo and Baby. He conducted complicated conversations with them. Sometimes he punished one or the other, Boo's door or Baby's remaining shut all day. He would stroke the relevant tab, shift it a fraction, then withdraw his hand. The satisfaction he knew at such moments was intense. But in years to come the page struck Tom as a terrible foreshadowing of his ordered existence. Each day was a sum with a red tick beside it. Intellectual curiosity, love's huge anarchy: he had succeeded in taming even these. There he came, the bright-eyed boy, one arm raised in merry greeting, the plaything of a shuttling machinery. Into these broodings arrived the dog. The dog hid blood-threaded bones down the side of a couch. He tore open a pillow and clawed the paint from a door. He sprang into a neighbor's ornamental pond and swallowed a goldfish. There was his ecstatic fondness for rolling in filth. He would dig in his ear with a hind foot, extract the paw, and lick it. Now and then while snuffling along a footpath he would hastily eat a turd. His desires were beastly. At his most docile, he remained an emissary from a kingdom with enigmatic laws. And slowly, slowly it dawned on Tom that the animal acquired to please his wife spoke to a need that was his alone. All giving is shot with ambiguity, directed at multiple and paradoxical ends. A gift might exceed thought and desire. It might be epiphanic. The dog was handsome, sweet-natured. It was easy to love such a creature. Nevertheless, his core was wild. In accommodating that unruliness, Tom's life flowed in a broader vein. Late for work while the dog danced out of reach, following his own imperatives through mud and weeds, Tom was conscious of anger ticking in him like time. It didn't preclude elation. For fleet minutes, a rage for control had been outfoxed. Matted fur drifted against baseboards. Even as he worked a soft gray clump from the bristles of a dustbrush, Sucks to you, Boo, thought Tom. It was not the end of disgust, which is an aversion to anything that reminds us that we are animals. But the dog unleashed in Tom a kind of grace; a kind of beastliness. (p. 187-189) "You know, in a way he looks pretty good," said Nelly. "Look how bright his eyes are." "That's how fasting works. The toxins go, along with the fat." (p. 294) Later, he leaned his forehead on the steering wheel and cried. He wiped his face on his sodden sleeve and went on crying. At some point he said, "I'm sorry, I can't help it." He said, "I keep thinking how the rope would've cut into him whenever he tried to struggle free or lie down. That he'd have had to choose between pain and exhaustion." What Tom meant also was that while the dog had persisted in his painful effort to rejoin him, he had persuaded himself that the dog was dead. What he meant was that he was unworthy of grace. (p. 299) But what he wished, with all the force of imperial afternoon, was that he might yet be graced with courage and loving conduct in the face of everything that can never be known. (p. 321)

  • Susan Coleman
    2019-05-26 12:23

    I finished this book some time ago, but I wanted to let it settle before writing anything about it, not sure if I loved it or thought it was just OK.Now that my reading is almost solely limited to bedtime (the lack of a public transportation commute has robbed me of about 2 hours of solid reading 5 days a week), I feel that I often don't give books a fair shake. When I read, I'm tired and apt to dismiss a book faster because of my weariness than I would if I were reading it while feeling fresher. It never occurred to me though to toss this one as a victim of the "50-page rule," as I did with the two books I picked up subsequent to it. But until now, I wasn't really sure how I felt about it.Generally I look for three main characteristics in a great book: a plot that pulls me through the pages; characters I know I'll miss, as lost friends, once the book ends; and skillful writing that uses images and other literary techniques that are surprising, thought-provoking, and/or beautiful in some way. "The Lost Dog" doesn't have much in the way of plot. There is a dog that's gone missing, and the main character does spend some time searching for it. But that's not what the book is about. This is a pondering book. The characters are observed as they ponder various scenes from their lives, or actual tangible objects, like Nelly's collection of glass eyes or the neon sign of the girl jumping rope that occupies Tom. We learn a tremendous amount about the characters from the things and events they focus on and how they come to view those things and events over time. But the action is slow, and the plot almost nonexistent.As far as the characters go, I didn't develop any real affection for or attachment to Tom, Nelly, Iris or any of the other more minor characters. They were placed under de Kretser's microscope to be studied, and real academic study requires detachment.But the writing is beautiful. Here's an extended example of what I mean by this:"There was a girl who had been around at parties and clubs when Tom was twenty. She was no older, but seemed stereoscopic: she had starred in a film that had won a prize; her face, smilingly assured below a rakish hat, gazed out from billboards. Then she vanished, summoned by Berlin or LA, and Tom forgot her, until the day, years later, when he and his wife bought a pair of sheets in a department store. On the down escalator, Karen said, 'You didn't notice, did you? That was Jo Hutton who served us.'For days, Tom was unable to evict her from his thoughts, the saleswoman he had barely noticed as she bleated of thread counts; within minutes of turning away, he would have failed to recognize her if she had materialized before him. While the transaction was being processed, he had grumbled casually to his wife about the time their train had spent in the Jolimont shunting yards before delivering them to Flinders Street Station. The saleswoman looked up: 'The exact same thing happened to me this morning. Doesn't it drive you mad?' Then she confided that this was her last day at the city store: she had been transferred to a branch in the suburbs. 'I live a five-minute drive away. I can't wait to be shot of public transport.' She handed Tom a pen and a credit card slip and shook the two gold bangles on her wrist as he signed: a small, unconscious expression of glee at her victory over time and the railways.Tom tried to picture the girl in the tilted fedora pausing long enough to fret about train timetables but found the challenge too strenuous.Now, sitting with Nelly in the drafty kitchen, he thought it was an error to equate authenticity with even tones. Existence was inseparable from tragedy and adventure, horror and romance; realism's quiet hue derived from a blend of dramatic elements, as a child pressing together bright strands of plasticine creates a drab sphere."I'm tempted to read this book again, with full knowledge of the plot and character interactions, just so I can focus on the writing. When I'm in bed and half an hour away from turning the lights off, my ability to appreciate and enjoy great writing is stunted. And this book deserves clearer focus, because the writer has delivered some truly wonderful writing.

  • Kirk
    2019-06-10 09:47

    Daniel Sumrall at Gently Read Literature was kind enough to ask me to review this book. The link is here. I'm cutting & pasting below:Readers may be forgiven if the title of de Kretser’s third novel fails to captivate. Not only does The Lost Dog continue her preference for curiously static object names (following The Rose Grower and The Hamilton Case) that do an injustice to the complexity of her themes, but it seems to evoke a little too readily a growing genre of literature whose popularity would seem close to the saturation point. Ever since John Grogan’s Marley Me proved a surprise bestseller in 2005, stories of man’s best friend, whether fiction or memoir, have been wet-nosing their way onto bookshelves like insistent Shih Tzus. Most recently, Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain has taken the trend to its logical extreme by employing a pooch protagonist as narrator. While that is one way to stand out from the litter, the preponderance of literary terriers and retrievers is beginning to bring to mind the unfortunate image of a publishing puppy mill.Curiously, though, de Kretser’s book can’t really be lumped in with these other works, for the search for the titular stray isn’t the overarching narrative concern. Instead, the real lost dog here is the owner, an Indian-Australian Henry James scholar named Tom Loxley, whose week long search for his pet prompts an inquiry into the nature of modernity, reality, and identity. One might go so far as to say that James is more central to the novel than the dog, which is never even named (unlike Tom’s book: Meddlesome Ghosts: Henry James and the Uncanny). What de Kretser hopes to produce here is a psychological study of perception on the order of “The Altar of the Dead,” “The Jolly Corner,” and “The Beast in the Jungle.” Whether she succeeds depends on the individual reader’s tolerance for stylistic abstraction and the relatively disassembled state in which she presents her plot pieces.The lack of assembly becomes pronounced a third of the way into the narrative when de Kretser introduces what should be the novel’s unifying focus——we learn the mysterious background of the artist Nelly Zhang, whose house Tom rents in order to complete his scholarly study of the Master (and it is while on a walk near the bordering bush that Loxley’s dog runs away). A decade and a half earlier, Nelly’s husband, Felix Atwood, vanished without a trace while being investigated for shady finances. Nelly subsequently became a tabloid suspect in his disappearance, especially after she seemed to stoke the mystery with a series of paintings ridiculed in the press as “Nelly’s Nasties.” De Kretser even excerpts one disapproving review from an “eminent critic”: “Zhang (re)presents the symbolic violence of authoritarian modes in images as ambiguous as they are oppressive. Nowhere in these paintings is the phallocentric will-to-power explicitly critiqued. The refusal to engage in direct visual discourse is ultimately elitist and unsatisfying.”Suffice it to say, it’s hard to build suspense when one is throwing around words like “phallocentric”—even when parodying them. But, Nelly isn’t Loxley’s only concern. The declining health of his aged mother, Iris, also preoccupies him. One of the most dramatically satisfying interludes occurs when Tom must clean the bathroom after his mother loses control of her bowels; the humiliating episode confirms for the protagonist the indignity of corporeality. De Kretser also goes into the Loxley family background, giving the storyline a colonialist spin by exploring how his father, Arthur, met Iris in India after WWII and how her desire for bourgeois prosperity landed them in Australia. Just how issues of immigration and identity relate to both Nelly’s mystery and Tom’s lost dog remain frustratingly unclear, however. At times, it feels as if there are three novels in one unspooling as the transitions between them are abrupt and often stagy. “But it might have begun long, long before that evening in Carson Posner’s gallery,” begins the introduction to the Arthur Loxley flashback, “It might have been historical.” One wishes a brave editor to have written, “Or it might just be a digression.”In addition to structural problems, there are moments when the stylistic compression required to stitch these disparate plotlines together results in some downright dubious sentences. Describing the reaction to “Nelly’s Nasties,” de Kretser writes, “A rock star who collected art was quoted as saying he was struggling with aesthetic and ethical objections to Nelly’s work.” Perhaps Australian rock stars are that articulate—Colin Hay, maybe?—but the line strikes me instead as an instance of the authorial voice intruding into the narration out of sheer haste. De Kretser’s occasional reversion to such academic prose is curious given a late set piece in which Tom attends a hiring-committee meeting at his university—a scene that is needlessly populated with pompous tweed-and-political correctness types. At this point in literary history, there would seem little real value in parodying the professoriate; not only has it been done to death by David Lodge et al, but also it adds nothing to the story. Additionally, if one wants to mock the hallowed groves of academe, one shouldn’t sound like a denizen.Despite these flaws, The Lost Dog still has much to recommend. For starters, the characters are intriguing and sustain interest through the plot’s patchwork discontinuities. Tom Loxley is the most rewarding of de Kretser’s overt Jamesian analogues; emotionally detached before the dog’s disappearance, he struggles in the classic mould of John Marcher and Spencer Brydon to come to grips with lost opportunities and disappointments and to balance his attraction to Nelly against the mystery of her missing husband. Nelly, too, is a thoroughly enjoyable creation, at once firmly committed to her aesthetics and yet winkingly aware of the pretension that seems inseparable from art. The putative antagonist, Carson Posner, is every bit as arch and manipulative as a Gilbert Osmond type should be, and several minor characters add local Aussie color. De Kretser’s eye for setting is likewise exquisite; aside from atmospheric evocations of paddocks and eucalyptus, she invests a great deal of effort in wringing poetry out of landscape, which pays off handsomely in conveying Tom’s ephemeral disconnection. Indeed, the chimerical is far more affecting here than in the constant references to James’s meddlesome ghosts.Again, the overall success of The Lost Dog depends on the reader’s tolerance for its loose, baggy form. The Anglo literary establishment certainly hasn’t held its unshapely development against de Kretser. Despite the general consensus that the novel represents a bit of a retreat in ambition after The Hamilton Case, The Lost Dog recently made the longlist for the 2008 Man Booker Prize (it was also named Book of the Year in Australia). While it is unlikely to win top honors, the recognition is certainly deserved for de Kretser, if not necessarily for this particular work.

  • Odette Carney
    2019-05-27 10:40

    I really loved De Krester's Questions of Travel, so I was eager to read this. I was rather disappointed, the story line was thin and the characters never really fully developed. Perhaps that was the intended style, but I was expecting more from it and "the mystery" alluded to on the back cover. The parts about India were fascinating and engaging, but ended quite quickly as the family moved to Australia and there wasn't much reminiscing about their lives there. There was a strong theme of ageing, but not at all represented in a positive way, the focus on the ugly side of ageing.All in all, it was a cathartic kind of book, that somewhat ended abruptly and to me largely unresolved.

  • Michelle Baker
    2019-06-12 07:21

    Very good read but hard going at times with moving between characters. Some wonderful descriptive phrases and heartfelt honesty regarding his mother.

  • Pam Ela
    2019-05-18 08:38

    It became boring. Tried to be too literary and not much of a storyline.

  • Rob Kennedy
    2019-06-04 09:35

    Michelle de Kretser writes and sounds like a poet. The short pithy perfectly constructed lines in The Lost Dog, have great appeal. The opening two lines completely set the story up; not many books have ever achieved this. The book is worth buying for those two lines alone.It’s good to see a modern book carrying modern connections in it, such as the references to the usage of modern technology. Many contemporary books do not contain references to the things we use every day, and that makes them seem out of touch and unreal. The Lost Dog blends this into the contemporary, and into a drifting story that weaves through the life of a stubborn and sensitive man, the lead character, Tom Loxley.There’s a sincere portrayal of a man and his union with a dog. The way an animal can get and remain under the skin of ever the hardest of men, not that Loxley is hard man. The book shows just how strong and permanent that union can be.In many moments throughout the book, the image of that dog come back to Loxley, and these are some of the most poignant parts of the book. I feel it’s clear that de Kretser has a close relationship with animals, to be able to render them as she has.Normally, I’m not a lover of description, but when de Kretser does it, I get something out of it. The poetic imagery she is able to assign to even the smallest and most insignificant of objects, places and characters, actually adds fuel to the story, and it didn’t turn me away as description does in so many other books.At times, I did feel lost though. I haven’t figured out if it was due to the depth of the story, or the sophisticated interlacing of ideas and memories; the lead does find himself in memory a lot. This is something I’ve seen in the writing of other authors, like Patrick White, who I love.While there are many aspects to this books, such as the complexities of inner-city life, relationships, art and artists, a very Melbourne duo. Then, there’s the poetry quoted, and a keen observation for so many things. But, I found the connections between Loxley and the lost dog, the most touching in a book that will stay with me, for its opening lines alone.I’ll be getting de Kretser’s latest book, Questions of Travel. Which will come in convenient, because according to a member of my club, “It’s a book, we will have to do?”

  • Eileen
    2019-05-17 14:33

    The Lost Dog is a character study concerning a lost dog, a professor writing a book on Henry James, the elusive artist he loves, and a multitude of interlocking themes. It is a quiet book that achieves just the right balance: it is leisurely and meditative without being boring, and deeply poignant.The story begins with Professor Tom's beloved elderly dog disappearing in the Australian backwoods. De Kretser's writing is restrained but effective, sure to tug at the heartstrings of any dog lover. Tom's desire to find his pet quickly unfolds into an introspective exploration of what Marx melodramatically called "the dead hand of the past" that must be exorcised from humanity's collective consciousness if we ever want to be free of its oppressive grip. Still, modernity is a paradox: nothing dates itself quicker than the present. (Kind of like that Hollywood Undead song: "Tomorrow's rock stars fade today!") What is now is past scarcely a second later. The movement in art, literature, and music actually called "Modernism" flourished between roughly 1890 to 1950. The past. It's over, replaced by postmodernism, which some argue evolved into post-postmodernism or post-millenialism or noosphere sometime in the 1990s.Modernity/postmodernity/post-postmodernity exists for the now. What is now is real. The past is old-fashioned, out-moded - or so we like to think.Nelly the artist - and by extension, Tom - is haunted by the collapse of her first marriage and the unsolved puzzle surrounding it. Tom is rudely reminded of the passage of time as his mother succumbs to the deterioration of old age. Nelly takes gleaming modernity and makes art out of everyday detritus and the old-but-not-yet-nostalgic. Her paintings are a search for meaning in the fleeting, fickle world of fashion, fads, and advertising. "Art exists because there are realities that exceed words." Everyone uses images nowadays - in fact, a fascination with simulacra (or "hyperreality") is a prominent tenet of postmodernism. But most of these images - and their social context - are merely ethereal. What is left at the end? Urged by the media, we buy and buy, but to what do we hang on?The Lost Dog is about a lost dog and much, much more. Original Review

  • Elizabeth
    2019-05-29 13:50

    An interesting read. Tom Loxley, a migrant from India to Australia and an academic writer with an interest in Henry James meets Nelly the artist with an interesting past. I enjoyed de Kretser's prose style, sometimes poetic and occasionally the dictionary was required to check a meaning of a word. The dog that is lost weaves through the story, perhaps a parable for Tom's own life. As a migrant he frequently reminisces from his memory of early life in India and compares to Australia. I liked the way de Krester moved between the two countries as Tom's cultural comments pervade the novel. I was less sure of her generalisations about the way Australian's think. I did not find her ideas sat well with me. (Quotes to be added.)I appreciated the setting de Krester's created with references to Australian surroundings - Melbourne, the trams, the light, the sky, the bush, the city, the feel of temporariness, the changing face of suburbs, the influence of sport. Tom's relationship with Nelly was fascinating in the twists and turns and slow revelations. A mystery unravelling and one could never be exactly sure of the truth in the situation. Nelly was mysterious to me even when she was most explicit. The author kept much of her hidden as we viewed her mainly through Tom's eyes and he didn't understand her well.The interwoven themes of child- mother bond between Tom and his mother Iris and how de Krester dealt with ageing were compelling. The guilt and responsibility an adult feels for their ageing parent, the roles reversed, were well described. The fragility and despair of the ageing process where losing control physically demeans one and attacks dignity. 'How was Tom to convey - to Nelly - to anyone the muffled dependancies that weighted his relationship with Iris"i might have missed some of the meaning as am not familiar with Henry James. but overall a novel thatwas thought provoking yet not entirely satisfying.

  • Perry Whitford
    2019-06-12 09:37

    In this equally intriguing and frustrating novel by Sri Lankan born Australian de Krester, an immigrant writer of Indian descent becomes infatuated with a painter of Chinese descent, falling in love with her while pondering the mystery of her husband's disappearance years before, when he staged an elaborate suicide after being investigated for irregular bond trading.Tom Loxley, the writer, uses artist Nelly Zhang's secluded farmhouse to find the peace he needs to finish a book about the pervasive quality of the supernatural in the work of Henry James. Their burgeoning relationship comes to a head when they both look for the writer's lost dog in the bush surrounding the city. The Lost Dog is a story told largely in fleeting flashbacks of frozen moments and sensory impressions. The overpowering attack on the senses that Tom recalls from his childhood in India is pointedly contrasted with the more sanitised environment of Australia.Even in a new, sparse world, there are lurking secrets to be found however, of which the novel is continually hinting:"It was like living in a house acquired for its clean angles and gleaming appliances; and discovering a bricked-up door at which, faint but insistent, the sound of knocking could be heard".The lost mutt of the title is clearly a metaphor, but for what I was not entirely sure? Perhaps a haunting from the past, as Tom and Nelly both suffered in this regard. There are ghosts in the novels of Henry James that Tom studies, ghosts in paintings that Nelly has destroyed before she exhibits photographs of them. Tom even sees a ghost.But like a ghost, the narrative was too insubstantial for me to see. Still, it is well written, if a little vague.

  • Hazel
    2019-05-25 12:29

    I wasn't entirely sure i'd finish this book when I was about a third of the way through. I found the use of language sometimes completely contrived, as if to give the impression of the author's intelligence rather than to contribute to the story. However, I persevered and found that themes of the book included art, literature and the complexities of thought and culture and this possibly contributed to the style of writing.The main thread is that of the lost dog. However, this is found alongside other plot lines including the protagonist's relationship with Nelly Zhang, an artist that he build a bond with, his relationship with his mother and his relationship with the modern world. Tom himself is relatively likeable and he explores his own psyche in the scenarios within the book. I did find myself recognising some of the trains of thought he goes down, about how we view the world, adolesence and the aging process. I found his description of his surroundings a little lacking. I would imagine a place he was in and then find that the view of it completely changed as he came back to it later. He also touches on India very briefly a few times but never fully explores that. It's slightly disjointed, but again, that may be intentional to reinforce the idea of the fragmented world.I wouldn't say you have to rush out and buy this, but if you come to read it you may as well finish it! There is some kind of satisfying conclusion.