The Washington Post
The Dog Fighter: A Novelby Marc Bojanowski
The anonymous narrator of this remarkable debut novel is a young drifter in search of his future. The son of a passionate beauty and gentle doctor, he roams the border between the United States and Mexico, eventually settling in a sleepy Baja town on the verge of transformation. Here he learns to stand face-to-face with dogs in a makeshift ring, to fight for money… See more details below
The anonymous narrator of this remarkable debut novel is a young drifter in search of his future. The son of a passionate beauty and gentle doctor, he roams the border between the United States and Mexico, eventually settling in a sleepy Baja town on the verge of transformation. Here he learns to stand face-to-face with dogs in a makeshift ring, to fight for money and fame, and becomes involved with a powerful and corrupt entrepreneur. But when he finds friendship with a revolutionary old poet and love with a beautiful, innocent girl, everything changes. Caught between the ways of his past and the dreams of his future, he must make a devastating choice that could cost him everything.
The Dog Fighter is an exhilarating tale of brutality and violence, love and wisdom, heartbreak and redemption.
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The Dog Fighter
By Bojanowski, Marc
William Morrow & CompanyISBN: 0060595604
In Mexico I fought dogs. I fought on a rooftop surrounded by bougainvillea and colorful shards of broken glass. Before the fighting I waited in a small room where bloodstained ragmen came hunchbacked from shadows to wrap my forearm in a heavy rug. Over my hand they placed a glove made to have metal claws. The leather of the glove softened with the blood and sweat of each fight and with each fight the claws were made more dull. When the ragmen finished wrapping the heavy rug they led me from the small room to a ring surrounded by yelling men. On these nights the sky of Canción darkened too slow for the eyes to see. The last of the sun always in the eyes and teeth of the dogs. Reflected into the ring from the broken glass buried in the walls. When the leashes were undone the yelling men stood shaking the metal fence of the ring. I crouched in silence and waited for the dogs to bark and show their necks. And then I tore at their necks with my claws. I let the dogs bite themselves onto the heavy rug so I could better put in their eyes with my thumb. Many times I snapped the bones of the small legs with my hands. I beat them in the heads with my fists. Once when a dog took me to the ground and went for my neck I caught her by the ears and dragged my teeth down between his eyes to the end of its nose.
I was a young man when I fought dogs in Mexico. There were many dog fighters then but none as great in size or as quiet. Then I was unsure of my words. But the fighting always was a language I spoke well. And the old men of Canción the men who have known fighting for as long as there have been dog fighters to admire placed upon me their most respect. These men spoke of my fights often and the stories they told of me then they still tell today. Of this I am sure.
As a boy in Veracruz my grandfather spoiled me with bedtime stories of men fighting beasts whose teeth were sharp as obsidian shards and whose eyes were lit by fire. The old man sat on a chair by my bed and the words of the old mans stories took the flames of candles and danced over the walls of my room shadows of men who wrestled sharks and wore the teeth of jaguars around their necks. He sat with his ruined hands wrapped in quilted cotton blankets laid between two charcoal braziers. Comfortable in my bed I studied the pinched wrinkles of his mouth until my eyelids closed. Lured by his whispering each night I followed my grandfather into violent dreams of glistening snarls and musky breaths. Dreams that were always the most beautiful and difficult thing to see. And each night in his whisper the desire to hear my own name in these stories of violent men grew strong within me.
Orozco went alone into the jungle with his dog and a one shot rifle and a miners candle lit on the brim of his hat. At noon into a jungle so choked with limbs the candle flame his only light. Orozcos dog went ahead following the scent of the beast. And when he heard his dog cry and ran to it curled with its soft belly torn open over the ground Orozco slit the dogs throat to save his bullet and knew the beast was very near and not afraid of him. But Orozco also was without fear. He knew that he would have to wait until the jaguar pounced from above from one of those wet black limbs and so he pressed on farther by licking his finger and thumb and putting out the flame and chose to rest his back against the trunk of a tree in that dark to wait.
And did the jaguar come then? I begged my grandfather.
You will have to wait until tomorrow. The old man teased. Then I will tell you what became of Orozco.
When I awoke the next morning he had placed in the palm of my hand a jaguar tooth. Dipped in silver and held by a leather strap.
Can you see Orozco waiting? My grandfather asked the following night. Looking to the shadows over the walls of my room whose shape I changed with the squinting of my eyes. My grandfathers whisper a warm hiss in my ear. The silver of the tooth cool against my chest. Can you hear him listening for the jaguars claws sinking into soft wood? Can you see him searching the dark for the light of the jaguars yellow eyes?
Good. Now follow him to your dreams.
But my mother did not approve of these stories my grandfather told. And because of this he threatened always to take them from me if I ever shared our secrets with her.
I share my secrets with only you. My grandfather whispered. To everyone else I lie.
To everyone else my grandfather winked and smiled and shuffled from room to room of my fathers great house muttering to himself and scratching his head. When my mother asked for these stories I answered her only with silence. And for this my mother beat me while my father chose to read his books. But I did not care because I understood that her beating me only made my grandfather more proud and then as a boy my grandfathers stories meant more to me than my mothers happiness.
You cannot continue to deceive him. My mother yelled at her father. Our family has suffered enough.
But when my mother yelled at her father like this he only winked and smiled and shuffled from the room muttering to himself and scratching his head. And after she had beaten me always he came to my room and leaned over my bed and asked if I wanted a story ...Continues...
Excerpted from The Dog Fighter by Bojanowski, Marc Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Marc Bojanowski graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and received his MFA in creative writing from the New School. His writing has appeared in The Literary Review. He lives in northern California.
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