The Shape of the Final Dog and Other Stories

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Best known as the original screenwriter of Blade Runner, author Hampton Fancher makes his debut with this extraordinary collection that bears all of the hallmarks that have made him beloved to film fans. These are stories about people and places that exist just outside our perceptions of space and time: in “Narrowing the Divide,” an escaped lab rat winds up in a philosophical conversation with a man whose wife sleeps in the next room; in “Cargot,” a failed actor is reincarnated as a garden snail and avenges ...

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The Shape of the Final Dog and Other Stories

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Overview

Best known as the original screenwriter of Blade Runner, author Hampton Fancher makes his debut with this extraordinary collection that bears all of the hallmarks that have made him beloved to film fans. These are stories about people and places that exist just outside our perceptions of space and time: in “Narrowing the Divide,” an escaped lab rat winds up in a philosophical conversation with a man whose wife sleeps in the next room; in “Cargot,” a failed actor is reincarnated as a garden snail and avenges himself with a Hollywood producer’s wife; and in “The Black Weasel,” a washed-up bartender finds an unlikely traveling partner in a slow-witted drifter with a suspicious bankroll. These are also stories about survival and instinct, with elements of the absurd and the sublime. The Shape of the Final Dog is a rare literary work that is mordantly funny, deftly written, and bound to delight and entertain.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Best known as the screenwriter of Blade Runner, Fancher debuts with a volume of unclassifiable, sometimes surreal, but largely disappointing short fiction. In “The Black Weasel,” an unemployed bathroom attendant leaves New York in the company of a dull-witted drifter whom he turns into a sideshow attraction at a carnival. In “The Crab’s Welcome,” a 10-year-old boy who dreams of meeting the talking crab star of his favorite TV show becomes the go-between for an artist and the female mail carrier he wants to paint. “The Climacteric of Zackary Ray” puts an actor whose career is on the skids in a small California town whose menacing citizens regard him with suspicion. In the most purely entertaining story, “Dead Man Flying,” a journalist interviews reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, back from the dead and as stubbornly eccentric as ever. Saving the best for last, “The Shape of the Final Dog” is a surprise variation on Blade Runner sure to please fans of the film. With stories that stretch from Red Hook to Brentwood to rural Mississippi, and from the 1940s to the near future, Fancher creates a world that operates on a slightly skewed plane of reality, but his style, evoking but not advancing the prose of the hard-boiled era, makes the book feel dated. Agent: Steve Fisher, APA. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
Bizarre stories, some bordering on the absurd and others going over the border. Fancher's best story is "The Climacteric of Zackary Ray," a tale of an over-the-hill movie actor who had once reveled in playing evil characters with a dash of humanity. Ray glories in the reflections of one reviewer who claimed his performances exhibited "the gears of corruption lubricated with honey," but such praise is unrecoverable because it is so far in Ray's past. In the present, he's deep in gin and self-pity. Another story involving a failed actor--this one far more surreal than "Zackary Ray"--is called "Cargot." The "hero" (though the boldness of the word is misplaced) reclaims a new identity but shuns a first name, choosing instead the initial "S" (yes, it's French). Ultimately, he undertakes a long journey up the body of the wife of a hated producer, getting a kind of revenge of intimacy. The most involved story is "The Black Weasel," which Fancher presents in two parts, separated by four other stories. Here, Spencer Hooler returns to his home in Townsville, Miss., from New York (where he works at a nightclub called "The Torture Chamber," which he redundantly informs us is a "specialty club") immediately after his mother's death, accompanied by a black man known as Mot who barks rather than speaks. In a twist on Huck Finn, Spencer tries to turn Mot into a circus wild man. Along the way we meet a cast of eccentrics that include Spencer's almost constantly drunk sister (called Sister). We also hear of Spencer's dead father, who taught a cat to walk backwards. (Spencer's sure of this because his mother showed him a black-and-white picture of it.) Fancher's writing is long on whimsy but short on humor.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399158230
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press
  • Publication date: 9/13/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.42 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Hampton Fancher is the original screenwriter for Blade Runner and the writer and director of The Minus Man (winner of the Grand Prix Jury Award, Montreal Film Festival). Born in East Los Angeles, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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