Novelists can't resist including a dog barking in the distance. I've seen it happen across the spectrum—Jackie Collins, William Faulkner, and Chuck Palahniuk: "There was no more rain, just an eerie stillness, a deathly silence. Somewhere a dog barked mournfully." (American Star) "She did not answer for a time. The fireflies drifted; somewhere a dog barked, mellow sad, faraway." (Light in August) "This is such a fine neighborhood. I jump the fence to the next backyard and land on my head in somebody's rose bush. Somewhere a dog's barking." (Choke)More at the link.
Having heard the dog's call, it seemed like I couldn't find a book without one. Not The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Not Shadow Country. Not Ulysses. Not Robert Penn Warren's All The King's Men, or Monica Ali's Alentejo Blue, or Stephen King's It or Christine. Not Jodi Picoult's House Rules. If novelists share anything, it's a distant-dog impulse...
Look at (Pulitzer Prize-winning) To Kill a Mockingbird: "Ripe chinaberries drummed on the roof when the wind stirred, and the darkness was desolate with the barking of distant dogs." Look at (National Book Award winner) Let The Great World Spin: "The street throbbed around me. Nobody's fault but my own. The bark of a dog flew by." Indeed, look at Martin Amis in his latest novel, The Pregnant Widow: "Keith closed his eyes and searched for troubled dreams. The dogs in the valley barked. And the dogs in the village, not to be outdone, barked back."
24 June 2010
"Somewhere a dog barked"
Selections from an interesting essay by Rosencrans Baldwin at Slate: