Summary and book reviews of Dog Years by Mark Doty

Dog Years

A Memoir

By Mark Doty

Dog Years
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2007,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2008,
    256 pages.

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Book Summary

Why do dogs speak so profoundly to our inner lives? When Mark Doty decides to adopt a dog as a companion for his dying partner, he finds himself bringing home Beau, a large golden retriever, malnourished and in need of loving care. Beau joins Arden, the black retriever, to complete their family. As Beau bounds back into life, the two dogs become Mark Doty's intimate companions, his solace, and eventually the very life force that keeps him from abandoning all hope during the darkest days. Their tenacity, loyalty, and love inspire him when all else fails.

Dog Years is a remarkable work: a moving and intimate memoir interwoven with profound reflections on our feelings for animals and the lessons they teach us about life, love, and loss. Mark Doty writes about the heart-wrenching vulnerability of dogs, the positive energy and joy they bring, and the gift they bear us of unconditional love. A book unlike any other, Mark Doty's surprising meditation is radiantly unsentimental yet profoundly affecting. Beautifully written, Dog Years is a classic in the making.

Chapter One

No dog has ever said a word, but that doesn't mean they live outside the world of speech. They listen acutely. They wait to hear a term—biscuit, walk—and an inflection they know. What a stream of incomprehensible signs passes over them as they wait, patiently, for one of a few familiar words! Because they do not speak, except in the most limited fashion, we are always trying to figure them out. The expression is telling: to "figure out" is to make figures of speech, to invent metaphors to help us understand the world. To choose to live with a dog is to agree to participate in a long process of interpretation—a mutual agreement, though the human being holds most of the cards.

What the interpreter must do is tell stories—sometimes to the dog in question. Who hasn't heard a dog walker chattering away to her pet, as if she were serving as a kind of linguistic mirror: "You are scared of that police horse," "Lola loves that ball!" Some people speak...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Doty's earnest sincerity and relentless probing at his subject matter will not be to everyone's taste. Inevitably compared to Marley & Me, Dog Years has more in common with The Year of Magical Thinking. Doty offers more than just a simple celebration of the relationship between a man and his dogs, or even between man and dog, delving into the universal themes of life and death, grief and happiness. His style is more philosophical than it is sentimental, merging memoir, poetry and prose into his eulogy for his two dogs.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Booklist - Carol Haggas

Sprinkled among poignant and merry anecdotes about typical and peculiar doggie behavior are Doty's tender yet cogent reflections on the underlying truths such conduct reveals about the canine species, observations that transcendently celebrate the essential connection between man and pet.

Library Journal

Its tone is plangent, its complex formal structure is like memory itself, and its exquisite pace reminds one of nothing so much as a stroll in the park with Fido. Poignant, intelligent, and quite simply superb; highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

While Doty is clearly fond of animals, his boundless affection is tempered by graceful observations. His warm commemoration of the lives of Beau and Arden makes a fitting companion to his previous chronicles, in prose and poetry, of Wally's illness and death. A profound reflection on hope, and a song of praise for the dead.

Publishers Weekly

Starred review. Evocative, compassionate, a love story both intimate and grand, this is a beautiful book.

Houston Chronicle

A wounding yet arresting memoir about living with his dogs…Doty’s gorgeous prose and piercing meditations...are simply sublime.

Entertainment Weekly

No human has ever loved his animals as Mark Doty has…Doty possesses a particular brilliance...[A] stirring chronicle of love.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

This is Doty at his best....Doty does in fact make the unsayable sayable, bringing the ungraspable within our reach.

Los Angeles Times - Susan Salter

This is Doty at his best, crossing lines between dream and reality, poetry and nonfiction, life and death, human and dog.

Reader Reviews
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Beyond the Book

Mark Doty's seven books of poetry and three books of nonfiction prose have been honored with distinctions including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and, in the United Kingdom, the T. S. Eliot Prize.

He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public ...

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