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Jan/Feb 2019 Reviews & Interviews

Old Toffer's Book of Consequential Dogs

Old Toffer's Book of Consequential Dogs.
Christopher Reid.
Elliot Elam, Illustrations. Faber. 2018. 115 pp.
ISBN 978 0 571 33409 4.

Review by Ann Skea


You've probably heard about Eliot's cats—
That thief who's "not there," and that dandy in spats—
Well, just to remove the smug grins from their faces
This pack of dogs will put them in their places.
            —Ann Skea, 2018

Buy now from Amazon! Old Toffer, the poet Christopher Reid, has "humbly," as he says,

...rounded up a rowdy assembly
Of my own Consequential Dogs
As counterpoints to Eliot's mogs.

Here we find a Philosophical Foxhound who loves "Brain-bamboozlers and paradoxes" more than chasing foxes; a "great Greyhound"—an "Offandawayhound"; and Towzle, whose great-grandmother was "a Kitchen Mop" and whose battle to the death with a particular pair of trainers leaves them "Mercilessly chewed / Mauled and mangled / Efficiently strangled." We meet Frazzlesprat who wants to be a cat and "did get the hang of caterwauling," and Reid's "trusted Friend" "Molly: A Dog of the Night." In addition there are various Mutts, "Heath, Hill, Park and Street" dogs; a spoiled Prince of a lapdog; a stray "who can pick a meager meal / From a tipped over bin without revulsion"; "Dobson, The Dog Detective" (a beagle of course!); and an energetic assembly of other Consequential dogs.

Reid also offers valuable advice on the naming of dogs, which is "no difficult matter" since "They're not choosy like cats, they aren't fussy at all." And his final exhortation is to "Fill your home with Happy Hounds" because "Doglessness is a disgrace / Absence of dogs a waste of space," and also because a large dog—a Wolfhound for example—can be quite useful as a substitute for "a drab old counterpane," whilst a bulldog might replace "that horrible ottoman."

To add to these pleasures, Elliot Elam has created some lively and delightful dogs of his own in black, white and yellow (good dog colours!) illustrations which perfectly complement Reid's poems.

Using a variety of poetic forms and "Forgetful of poetic pomp," Christopher Reid, with the blessing of the T.S. Eliot Estate, has had fun writing this Book of Consequential Dogs which, he notes, Eliot mooted but never wrote. "All agree it was a pity," since dogs...

                                ...suited
His genius, surely, just as well
Dogs being, you might say, parallel—
Or mirrorwise—or contrary
To cats.

So, even if you cannot have a dog in your home, you should fill it with Reid and Elam's Happy Hounds, because "a dog-filled home is misery-proof."

Although your cat might not agree.

 

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