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Arthur Bradford
167 Pages

Although the soft cover printing of Arthur Bradford's Dogwalker has been on the shelves for a while now, it is a testament to the man's patience and sincerity that I write this review in early November, sitting quietly in a park watching small dogs lick medium-sized dog's frigid testicles. On the other side of the park the cacophony of homeless shouts mixes with hands planted firmly on horns; it's the overture of a typical midweek workday in New York City. And no matter how much I attempt to slow down and to separate, I can never bring it down to the steady timbre that Bradford wonderfully, innocently commands from his sentences.

Dogwalker is a refreshing read, if not for its magically envisioned narrative twists then for its compete lack of self-importance. Ironic then that the front and back covers would be plastered with current pulpstars like eggs on a house the night before Halloween. Eggers, Smith, Klam, Sedaris, Foster Wallace: the gang's all here. It's good for Bradford in that this alone has surely guaranteed future pressings, yet before I even read a word I expected an assault of references, cheeky elevated witticisms and the wine-stained sophistication of the Brooklyn literature luminati.

Other Book Reviews:

- Arthur Bradford

Nowhere Man
- Aleksandar Hemon

The Book of Illusions
- Paul Auster

Lightning Field
- Dana Spiotta

It's a Free Country
- Danny Goldberg

Some of the Parts
- T Cooper

- Jonathon Dee

The White
- Deborah Larsen
Into the Buzzsaw
- Kristina Borjesson

- Ian McEwan

The Black Veil
- Rick Moody

Tempting Faith DiNapoli
- Lisa Gabriele

- Lynn Breedlove

Africa Speaks
- Mark Goldblatt

The Shape of a Pocket
- John Berger

Media Unlimited
- Todd Gitlin

Carter Beats the Devil
- Glen David Gold

Somebody's Gotta Tell It!
Jack Newfield
Violence, Nudity, Adult Content
- Vince Passaro

Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace
- Gore Vidal
The War Against Cliche
- Martin Amis
Look at Me
- Jennifer Egan

Them: Adventures With Extremists
- Jon Ronson

Tishomingo Blues
- Elmore Leonard

Letters to a Young Contrarian Christopher Hitchens
With Love and Squalor
Kip Kotzen and Thomas Beller
Shanghai Baby
Wei Hui
Shop Talk
Philip Roth

Halls of Fame
John D'Agata
This is Not a Novel
David Markson
My Name is Red
Orhan Pamuk
Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America
Barbara Ehrenreich
Spreading Misandry
P. Nathanson and K. Young

Upon opening the book to read a quote borrowed from fellow Texan Richard Linklater's Slacker, I immediately realized that Bradford was in his own world and that perhaps he included the quote as a warning for readers to heed the sonority of his words - syllables floating effortlessly between utter absurdity and childlike innocence. His stories are the verbal equivalent of a dog chasing its tail, blameless and funny, motivated not by any particular desire to "get it' but simply by the fact that the tale is there. In each of the fourteen shorts in Dogwalker, Bradford's first published book (he has written for McSweeney's and Esquire) he sets up scenes with the potential to move in innumerable narrative directions, and, like a Rube Goldberg machine, the machinations are wild but the payoff is something so simple and perfect.

Bradford's subtle gift lies in his ability to balance tone and content. I don't think I have read another writer who could tackle the freakish element and have it appear almost commonplace by incorporating such a deliberate pace and language. He practically makes an amorous tryst between a man and his dog seem natural, because in his world - one filled with dog fucking, humans with cat faces, women who birth glowing snow frogs, and every sort of deformed dog you can hazard to imagine - it is. Characters don't question, they accept; a nice departure from the cynicism that seems all too prevalent in the work of his contemporaries.

"It was a strange fruit, long and wrinkled. On its skin there were tiny hairs. I ate it and it tasted good." Would you eat it? If not, why? His prose lacks all supposition, and forgoes adult logic for the same innocent curiosity that drives a child to eat a mud pie, grab a handful of yellow snow, or jump off a tree branch ten feet above the ground. And coincidentally, it's the stolid grown-up hesitance that will keep us from losing ourselves in these simply written, slowly moving stories. Bradford asks for more than just a reader's suspension of disbelief, he asks us to completely disregard the critical nature required to read contemporary fiction. Like one of his many mangled pups, we are best affected by his work by simply finding a good spot, sitting and watching Bradford's world open around us.

--Steve Marchese


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[email protected] | December 2002 | Issue 33
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