Tamas Dobozy's Doggone
(Gutter Press, 206 pages, $14.95 paper) begins with this admission from the narrator, Gabe: "Okay. Here's the real state of affairs. Honest to gosh. At twenty-nine I weigh in at a hundred and ninety-five pounds, measure six feet two inches. To date, the missions I've chosen to accept run as follows: searching for a dead girlfriend called Lala, scrounging up a father-figure and nationality, and, most importantly, deciding how to murder my parents' dog. I'll tell you about these." And with much "gratuitous detail", he does.
Gabe has a variety of problems. He lives in Oxbox, B.C., and feels stuck in a rut. Everyone he knows seems to be living a more interesting life than he is-even Lala, his promiscuous femme fatale girlfriend. Their relationship has been going on and off like a light switch for several years. This time, she's disappeared for good-an apparent suicide-but Gabe doesn't believe it's so.
His father, now deceased, was also a problem. He was a bigamist-his way, Gabe suspects, of reconciling two lives: Gabe's mother represented the old Hungarian life; his second wife the new Canadian one. Gabe's obsession with obliterating his "wiener dog" (another problem) was shared by his father: "When I saw my father put a cigarette out on the dog's back one night while it sniffed at his socks I felt no anger. Father was watching teevee, but he looked up and noticed me. We understood each other. It was the closest I ever felt to him. What he'd done meant more than if he'd admitted to loving me." When Gabe finally decides to spare the dog, it comes with the realization that "you can't kill reality with a scheme", which is something just about everybody in this novel tries to do.
Dobozy tells his story using a thematic rather than linear approach. His style is quirky, reminiscent of Tom Robbins-a brand of manic energy combined with offbeat images: "The party came to a last stop. Guests disembarked, haphazardly, through the front door. Bodies leaned heavily against the railing, some smiling, heads fallen forward, others with halos of sweat shining from their foreheads." Dobozy has unmistakable talent, but it seems wasted on a book like Doggone. It's like using gallon after gallon of paint on a structure whose walls are crumbling beyond repair.