professornana (professornana) wrote,

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from Houston to Mexico (almost) in a day

I drove about 8 hours today from Houston west and south to Laredo, Texas. I am now about 3 miles from the Mexican border, sitting in an air conditioned hotel room cooling off (it is in the high 90s outside) before dinner. Tomorrow I speak to a slew (gaggle? brood? what is the collective noun of choice) of school librarians in one of the fastest growing school districts in the US.

So, on the way I listened to an audiobook, of course. It is tough to read while driving 75 mph (the legal speed limit down here). DOG YEARS: A MEMOIR by Mark Doty is an adult book, but I wanted to give it a listen for my inaugural VOYA audiobook column (Yippee!!!). Mark recounts his life with his two wonderful dogs, Bo and Arden (hope I am getting the spelling right, one of the downsides of audio is that uncertainty). It is dangerous to drive and cry, but I had a nice cathartic cry a couple of times even though this is not a sentimental diatribe about the noble beasts in our lives.

Doty begins by talking about September 11th and wondering if even thinking about the loss of our pets is something we need to do in the wake of these horrific losses (I was thinking about the VT shootings and how that colors this as well). However, he posits that we cannot always deal with losses in such large numbers (and is it not difficult to do just that?) but that sometimes the individual loss can help us to think more clearly about the larger issue and greater losses. That is what is so striking about this book. It is at turns philosophical, lyrical and poetic (he is a poet and a teacher in the writing program at various universities), dogmatic, pragmatic, and ever a keen observer of the human and the canine condition.

I am a cat person; dogs are fine but I do not lead a life that allows for dogs. I need the surly independence of felines. However, one would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this astonishing book. Doty is the reader and generally that is also problematic for me. In this case, he is the only choice. No one else could bring the right tones and inflections. It was a magical experience that helped the miles melt away.
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