The Friend: A Novel
The Friend Sigrid Nunez is referring to in the title of her new novel is and isn’t a dog. This almost human-sized dog (a Great Dane) was bequeathed to the protagonist by an unnamed author friend and former flame after his suicide. Said flame had quickly gone out long ago, but the protagonist seems to have kept it burning while this friend went on to marry thrice (the women designated Wife #1, Wife #2, and Wife #3).
Her deceased friend was a notorious womanizer (a dog), and the protagonist must work through her feelings about this and various other character flaws, directly addressing the departed as she begins to view the Great Dane as a kind of fairy-tale surrogate.
Beyond the comic anthropomorphisms and sublimated grief, the narrator is deeply preoccupied with what it means to be a writer today. She quotes her “friend,” saying that “people talk[ ] about a book as if it were just another thing, like a dish, or a product like an electronic device or a pair of shoes, to be rated for consumer satisfaction.”
And while she’ll play devil’s advocate, it seems clear that she shares his literary lamentations. Her second-person narrative is interspersed with tragicomic quotations, factoids, and anecdotes from the history of literature and art, which resonate with that rich and perhaps receding tradition.
Reminiscent of Carolyn Parkhurst’s Dogs of Babel, Adolfo Bioy Casares’ Asleep in the Sun, and David Markson’s late work, Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend is a meditation on loyalty, cruelty, and the future of authorship.
|Page Count||224 pages|
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