Afterglow (a dog memoir)
by Eileen Myles
“I swore I was done with dog books,” said Maureen Corrigan in NPR.org. But not every dog book has to be a treacly clone of Marley & Me, as Eileen Myles has just emphatically proven with Afterglow—“a mutt elegy in a million.” Myles is a poet, provocateur, and onetime write-in candidate for president whose ode to Rosie, a pit bull who died more than a decade ago, consists of poems, essays, mock interviews, home video transcripts, and science fiction. Some passages even channel Rosie’s perspective. Through all the weirdness, Myles “gets at something no other dog book I’ve read has gotten at quite this distinctly: the sense of wordless connection and spiritual expansion you feel when you love and are loved by a creature who’s not human.”
“Big and little thoughts” spill from almost every page, said Matthew Gilbert in The Boston Globe. Using punctuation that “plays by its own rules,” Myles entertains ideas both deep and whimsical: Is there any significance to the fact that “Dog” is “God” spelled backward? Could Rosie have been a reincarnation of Myles’ father, who died at 44 in an alcohol-related accident? And, as many other dog lovers have similarly wondered, “What did Rosie think of her owner?” The surprisingly acerbic pooch answers that herself, insisting in an interview that she should be the one credited for every poem attributed to Myles between 1990 and 2006. And she observes that Myles’ one attempt to breed her amounted to human-sanctioned rape. Still, she’s grateful for the walks.
Flights of fancy aside, the divide separating canine from human “remains, in some ways, unbridgeable,” said Melissa Broder in Bookforum. Myles, who possesses a buzzing, neurotic, writer’s brain, is constantly dissecting and analyzing the experience of caring for Rosie. Rosie, most likely, just lived in the moment. Happily, her owner learns to embrace the same approach. Afterglow is a celebration of a beloved pet, but also of “a singular and limber mind roaming free.”