Dog Years: A Memoir by Mark Doty - review by Francis King

Francis King

Canine Comforts

Dog Years: A Memoir


Jonathan Cape 215pp £11.99 order from our bookshop

An admired critic friend of mine, so tough that he will give even friends’ books savage reviews if he thinks that they deserve them, told me that this memoir of the lives and eventual deaths of two dogs had moved him to tears. When I was living in Japan, I at one time housed no fewer than five strays, but I must confess that, though from time to time it moved me profoundly, Mark Doty’s narrative certainly never reduced me to that same state. 

In primitive communities animals are cherished chiefly for their usefulness: asses carry burdens, dogs frighten away marauders, cats kill. But in highly developed ones, they are cherished chiefly because they accord their owner unconditional love. That, as this poignant book repeatedly demonstrates, is what its American author needed from his

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