The Doggo Book – A Review

The Doggo Book, Alan Ira Gordon, with illustrations by Marge Simon. (Hiraeth Publishing, 2021) 62 pp. $9.00 paperback. https://www.hiraethsffh.com/product-page/the-doggo-book-by-alan-ira-gordon

Review by Lisa Timpf

Alan Ira Gordon’s poem “Pinocchio Plays the Cotton Club,” which was included in the 2019 Rhysling Anthology, made an immediate impression, so when I saw that Gordon had written a collection called The Doggo Book, it seemed a good fit for me as a dog-lover and as someone who already knew they enjoyed Gordon’s writing.

The Doggo Book is a mix of speculative and non-speculative work, and includes both poetry and prose, although poetry forms the bulk of the volume. Between the covers, readers will find a speculative short story, an essay, and 18 poems, seven of which have been previously published in Illumen, Planet Hunter, and Star*Line. Gordon also provides a bibliography of books dealing with various dog-related subjects.

Livening the content are a handful of photos, as well as six illustrations crafted by Marge Simon. My favorite of these is the one accompanying the poem “Cybernetic Doggos,” although each of the others did good service in capturing the essence of canine personality.

Some of the poems, such as “Dog Love” and “Dog Photo,” are clearly rooted in the everyday world. Others, like “Wolf Alice,” “Vampire Doggos,” and “When the Aliens Arrived on Earth to Visit the Dogs,” have a speculative flair.

Some of the poems didn’t feel as impactful as I might have liked. However, many of the entries provided an “aha” moment, inspired an appreciation of the way Gordon played with possibilities, or spurred a nod of recognition. For the most part, it was the speculative works I felt drawn to. Gordon explores a number of scenarios, including the way dogs see the world, the notion that aliens might find our canine companions more interesting than us, and how canine versions of vampires or other supernatural creatures might play out. Many of the poems contain a sly humor.

“Lucky and His Dad,” which contains the lines “on full-moon nights, The Rainbow/Bridge becomes a two-way street/and Lucky’s back,” was among the poems I found the most powerful. It appears I’m not the only one who was struck by it. “Lucky and His Dad,” which first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Illumen, was also included in the 2021 Rhysling Anthology.

The whimsy of “Pocket Universe #36—Canine Superhero Sidekicks” was enjoyable, as was the twist ending of “Wolf Alice.”

I happened to be reading The Doggo Book while my border collie was going through some age-related health issues. This made some of the book’s content more resonant for me. One example was the poem “You Adapt,” which articulates how hard it is to deal with letting go:

        You adapt to it getting harder,
        to knowing that it’s coming to
        an end. Knowing you can’t stop
        it from its scheduled arrival.

In the book’s introduction, Gordon notes that the purpose of the book is “to express how wonderful it is to have our four-legged friends in our two-legged lives.” The Doggo Book does a good job of conveying the specialness of the four-footed species so closely entwined with our own. Dog lovers, in particular, might find The Doggo Book an entertaining read.

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Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her speculative poetry has appeared in New Myths, Liminality, Apparition Lit, Polar Borealis, and other venues. Her reviews have appeared in Star*Line, The Miramichi Review, The Future Fire, and Aethlon. You can find out more about Lisa's writing at http://lisatimpf.blogspot.com/.

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