Oogy is one ugly dog. But the reason for his appearance is even more hideous than the dog’s actual looks: just weeks after his birth, Oogy was used as bait for another canine, an illegal fighting dog being trained to kill. Found barely alive, Oogy is brought by police to a vet’s office, where the pup is left to die. One side of his face has caved in, and he’s just not going to make it.
Until the morning shift, when a technician comes in and sees something in this dog, a creature in intense agony that nonetheless refuses to feel sorry for himself, wagging his tail in hello. Somehow, this dog is nursed back to health and adopted by Larry Levin, his wife and twin sons. The result is an intense and beautiful friendship, and a book, titled Oogy: The Dog Only A Family Could Love (2010).
Why only a family? Because Oogy both needs and gives big love
As Levin brings the pup home, he bestows a name: “Hello Oogy,” I said. “From now on, that’s you. You’re Oogy. Oogy, Oogy, Oogy. Oogy for the rest of your days. Oogy ever after. You’re in our family, now,” I explained. “That’s me, I’m Dad; Jennifer, who is Mom; and Danny and Noah, who are 12. You’ll like the boys. They’re lots of fun.”
Oogy — Levin tells the impertinent that it’s Elvish for squirrel’s bane — has led a harsh life, and needs a lot of patience and attention. The little guy eats appliances whole and can’t be left alone.
This then, is the simple and heartwarming story of how Oogy grows up, and how he touches the Levins.
It’s just one of the library’s many New Arrivals for the summer.
Here’s another: Canuck superstar William Gibson’s All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999). Penned in his signature high-tech, corporate-driven grunge future, Parties features a group of sadsacks, homeless or on the precipice, somehow barely surviving the violence of desperation.
Gibson’s short short chapters jump from character to character — a woman on the run from an abusive ex, an idiot savant and his two murderous friends, a refurbisher of antique wristwatches, and more. Each quick narrative jump brings the reader ever closer to the end of the world. Or rather, to an end of the world, to the cusp of a new Internet node.
And every three or four pages, hit another hotlink for the next jump, as the hackers try to outwit establishment man’s efforts to keep himself on top. This is fast and fun for cyber-punk fans.
Looking for something a little meatier and a bit more low-tech? Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into The Value Of Work (2009), is a New York Times bestseller written by philosophy PhD and motorcycle mechanic Matthew B. Crawford.
Crawford brings in big-name big thinkers like Marx, Hobbes, Taylor and others to argue that a certain kind of manual labour demands more mentally than does much white-collar work. Much blue-collar work, however, has been degraded into mindless and repetitive tasks. Yet human judgment, and its concurrent sense of responsibility, can only come from an engaged and noble workforce.
Pride comes from being able to fix your own car (though Crawford ignores how pride might come from being able to sew your own clothes, or other traditionally female trades): “How far we have come from the hand-oiling of early motorcycles is indicated by the fact that some of the current Mercedes models do not even have a dipstick. This serves nicely as an index of the shift in our relationship to machines.” When the service light comes on, you take the car over to a technician, so the car owner no longer has to play with dipsticks and dirty rags. “But in another sense, it makes him [the car owner] more dependent. The burden of paying attention to his oil level he has outsourced to another….”
Crawford warns young people that a university degree is often a ticket right to a veal-fattening office pen and a lousy paycheque, while a trade allows you real freedom, to set your own schedule and to charge $65 an hour.
This critique of modern society will strike chords with many who are frustrated with modern life.
Last but not least, the final New Arrival profiled this week: Montreal humourist and book critic Joel Yanofsky’s Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education in Autism (2011).
Yanofsky’s memoir is the story of an expectant dad who has a very hard time coping with his crushed expectations: His long awaited son is disabled. As such, Yanofsky often portrays himself as distinctly dislikeable in his self-pity, and shows himself losing his temper with a child. This is not one of those sappy self-help books, but something much more honest.
His autistic child does not understand the concept of play; Jonah understands repetition and obsession. Yanofsky must struggle daily to try to understand an alien mind, and sometimes gives up. How, after all, does one teach an uncomprehending child to play?
Doting dad now wants his kid not to become a doctor or a lawyer, but to simply be able to have friends. Even if “friends” is a concept little Jonah doesn’t get, and perhaps doesn’t need.
“Can you write your way out of disappointment?” asks Yanofsky. “Out of a corner?” This book is Yanofsky’s attempt to do so. It’s a fascinating read into a father’s attempts to accept his child for who and what he is.
– Eleanor Brown, July 8, 2011