The Wrong Dog Dream: A True Romanceby Jane Vandenburgh
The author calls this a true romance,” saying, it’s the part of her personal history she, being superstitious, was almost afraid to write. She’d grown up accustomed to bad luck, but had by accident or miracle survived her own circumstances: being orphaned, her own misspent youth, the chaos of a broken marriage. She’d more than survived, she’d even triumphed and had awakened into a kind of charmed splendor to find herself living in a white marble city with storybook castles, knowing famous people, being invited to the White House to listen to her husband discuss Yeats with the President of the United States, as Bill Clinton drinks Diet Coke from the can.
And into this fabled chapter of the writer’s life comes the perfect dog, an English Springer Spaniel named Whistler who arrives not only the family pet, but as her private symbol of triumph over all that age-old sadness. She wants to ignore it but can’t help but see that their perfect pup is something of a neurotic mess, snarling at manhole covers, barking at children, growling at people in wheelchairs.
The writer herself is not seemingly done with the anxieties born of all that early trauma and loss, and she begins to worry obsessively about losing this difficult dog, the one they so love. Wrrrrnnnggdgggg! she begins to dream. Wrrrrrnnnnng dgggg!
"And now I love this book, too. Like everything Vandenburgh writes, The Wrong Dog Dream is profound, brilliant, honest, painful, gorgeous, precise and wild, funny and real. She only writes about what matters most: love, family, art, and survival. You don't have to love dogs to enjoy this book, because it is about Life, which is to say, joy, loss, chaos, love, death and then those things all over again. It's about her marriage, children, and grandchildren, and their pets; her childhood in a deeply crazy environment, and its pets, her life as an acclaimed artist, her loneliness, salvation in marriage, and pets. This book is about devastation, hope and victory, and it is beautifully written." Anne Lamott
- Counterpoint Press
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Meet the Author
Jane Vandenburgh is the award-winning author of two novels, Failure to Zigzag and The Physics of Sunset, as well as Architecture of the Novel, A Writer’s Handbook and The Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century, A Memoir. She has taught writing and literature at U. C. Davis, the George Washington University, and, most recently, at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Callfornia. A native of Berkeley, she has returned to live with her family in the West, and with Wayne Thiebaud, her new dog.
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The Wrong Dog Dream is a book for all who have loved and lost a dog and lived to love another. That said, it is anything but a sentimental dog book. Jane Vandenburgh is a wildly original, big-hearted and darkly humorous writer who doesn’t need to stoop to the sentimental when relating her life shared with dogs. It’s not just the keen observations regarding her pure bred English springer spaniel Whistler (a “well thought out and intentional animal”), and the less intentional but equally adored porch hound Thiebaud, but her wise and witty survey of the human scene, from PLU—People Like Us, to deeper family concerns. Her endearing, brilliant take on blended family relations is offered in the chapter titled The One Cake Rule. Vandenburgh’s delightfully circuitous thinking can at times be like holding a leash attached to a rambunctious, curious creature taking in all she finds along a fast-paced walk as she tells of her life in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area. Along the gracefully winding path she brings us to surprising truths, including her belief that a dog’s pure, uncomplicated love is possibly the truest love a human can experience. And as with any good memoir, the author delivers us to powerful understandings about herself which she could not have arrived at without the company of her beloved canines. As for the book’s many entertaining asides, I found she and her husband Jack’s brief residency in a high rise in the instant community of Emeryville to be so acutely whacky, she might want to consider it a setting for her next novel. Readers of The Wrong Dog Dream will be thankful Ms. Vandenburgh has gone so willingly, and winningly, to the dogs.