Write with the senses

My dog (female) ​​Tulip, an autobiographical novel by J. R. Ackerley, is also an ethological study about the life of a particular Alsatian dog: the beloved and enigmatic Tulip. The story has as an almost exclusive motive the decipherment of the canine soul, sometimes with terrible anxieties when it comes to relating to the human environment, the dog is at the same time the reason for the writer to talk in a veiled way about his own problems to establish contact with the others.

But how to speak on behalf of someone who does not speak? In a novel you can’t bark, you can look for alternative ways to make the dog talk.

This is achieved by creating a style fundated in two values: fidelity and truthfulness. Faithfulness understood primarily as exclusivity. Ackerley has only one love and one story to tell, and he gives himself to both from the first page, in which he recalls a fortuitous and decisive event for the story he will share with Tulip. It is the meeting with the veterinarian-guide who will be the orientation for the unknown land of dogs and the author of the phrase that will end up becoming a leitmotif of the narration: “Tulip is a good girl. The problem is you”. And so it will be: Tulip will lack for defects at a point that will shape a moral utopia. And that utopia will feed a sense of guilt in the person who, as a foreseeable consequence, will justify the sacrifice of everything that can distract him from his mission.Fidelity is, therefore, an essential feature of the dog-style, and will be inextricably linked to truthfulness, the other primary value in Ackerley’s writing.The narrator tries to tell “the truth” about of his dog, although He have to talk about pee and poop, of inappropriate behavior for the problems of life in society, of unpleasant smells.

The writer resorts to all his senses, but very special to smell. The nose does not lie to him and allows him to better understand his dog: to know what he wants or what he rejects, he needs to understand the scents of the world and its effects on dog action. He has to put the body to think and with that thought write, as if the whole word should pass, before reaching the paper, in some sense. To write like a dog is to make the body speak and accept whatever comes, however improper it may be. Because there is probably no idealization or aestheticization of the protagonist; the story is transparent like the look of a dog.

J.R. Ackerley and his dog Queenie


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