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# 2 – Shakespeare’s Dog 

Why: book buying/reading can be a marvelous discovery.

At the start of my venture into reading I bought only ‘safe’ books. These tomes were unlikely to waste time or money.  I knew more or less before a purchase what the contents were and I would probably enjoy them. It’s like walking into 31 Flavors and ordering the safe familiar vanilla rather than trying “The Flavor of the Month’. After all what if I got a book and didn’t like it? Horrible isn’t it? 

Near The Shakespeare Festival located in Stratford, Ontario stood an old-fashioned locally- owned bookstore. Oh! How I miss these sort of bookstores!  One time I went in without remembering  to bring my prepared list of reading wants. My mind went blank; I couldn’t remember a single one of them. I could have just walked out but I always buy something to help keep the place going. On the table among the scholarly books about was “Shakespeare’s dog”. I figured it had to be a history of The Bard as told through the eyes a fictional pooch. 

Here’s the first paragraph of this alleged scholarly history book: 

“That spongy, water-licking Wolfsleach was on down on the grass doing sport with Marr, and when he saw me romping towards him with choppers flaring, he whirled in gummy pain and gave Marr a great kick in her hind parts that sent her spinning over on all-fours, whimpering her sorrows at pleasures abated and leaking drool from her yellow mouth. Agh, you wench, I thought, you thrush-throated, humping dog; oh the devil take you! So I tagged her one on the fly, a quick bit that tozed gristle and fur, and kept going. Blech and blah, woof and roar – oh, you mangy suffers with pigs’ feet for brains, here humping away to heart’s content – and in my yard! There goes dignity, as the barrel-eyed Two Foots would say. Well, you’ll taste the poison of my fangs, you’ll get Hooker’s comeuppance and what-for. You’ll have my claw stud where dogger was. Woof-woof and arf-arf, damn you all. “

Patience above! This isn’t what I thought the book would be! I continued to read and I could not put the book down. It was one of those rare ‘laugh out loud’ reads. William and his faithful hound Hooker have all sorts of shenanigans and marital ructions pocked with ersatz-Elizabethan expletives.*  What a surprise! What a delight!

‘Shakespeare’s Dog’ introduced me to taking chances with books. An unknown book picked up in a bargain book store or taking down from Grandfather’s bookshelf might be the literary equivalent of hitting the jackpot. This daring approach is how I was discovered Leon Rooke, James Thurber, and Robertson Davies to name a few. You never know until you try – at least for a few pages.

 

*Old Lurker: this is the book where I got the expression “Sooner I’d eat rats at Tewkesbury!”.

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