Dogrun by Arthur Nersesian – Review

Another in a recent run of books I’ve enjoyed reading but can’t find much of anything to say about it. Our hero is Mary Bellanova and her quest of identity (Mary! I am your father! NOOOOOOOOOOOO) begins when she comes home, cooks dinner and gets into the sort of pointless, pedestrian fight everyone gets into when they have lived too long with the same person and have come to the realization that they care for them too little to put up with all of it for much longer. Then she discovers that her lover, Primo, has become a former lover and is now a corpse.

Over the course of the novel, Mary comes to realize her best friend has done some less than best friend things, another friend from her childhood has some questions he needs to answer and a friend of Primo before corpsehood becomes the nicest guy she knows. She rediscovers an artistic streak, has some escapades with various mortal remains and has to figure out what to do with a dog she inherits from Primo.

Over the course of the novel there seems to be a general theme about control over one’s life and finding what’s important. Mary’s a temp, a habitually unstable job, and she just sort of fell into a relationship with a guy she came to realize she didn’t really care for but was too overcome with malaise to change. After Primo’s death, her weird obsession with making sure anyone who cared about Primo finds out about his death (which really boils down to a litany of ex-girlfriends/ex-wives) leads her to losing her temp job and beginning the job of finding some semblance of self.

On the opposite end of this is Primo. He stands for who Mary could become. Living a similarly unstable economic life, bouncing from girlfriend to girlfriend, we see how little of himself is left. And how Mary has to venture into Primo’s past to find anything really tangible from his existence. As he got older, he gave up his painting, his music, his everything. He became the life Mary was living.

It’s a short novel, with the hustle and bustle of low-mid income people in New York trying to eke out a living that is simultaneously sustainable and fulfilling. It’s a good read, with Nersesian’s prose being smooth and rolling, beautifully painting his characters and his neighborhood. But I’m not sure it’s much beyond that.  The fertile place for Nersesian seems to be his characters, with more juxtapositions could be drawn(such as Primo and ex-gf Sue Wott, or Mary and Sue Wott, Howard and Zoe, etc.). However, I think Dogrun‘s biggest positive is its readability. It’s just an enjoyable book to fall into with an unconventional female lead. In other hands, his characters could become charicatures, with their self-made oddities, but they don’t. Nersesian excels at giving them an authenticity that speaks highly of his skill.

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