Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: I Want to Kill the Dog by Richard Cohen

Have you or one of your family members ever had a dog that was just rotten?  And yet you loved that furry beast anyway?  Richard Cohen has that dog but he doesn't actually love his dog, make that his family's dog.  He really wants the dog to disappear.  He tolerates current dog Jasper and tolerated past canine family members because his wife, Meredith Vieira, is a huge animal lover.  In order to get out his feelings about the mutts that inhabit his home and form a mutual admiration society with his wife, Cohen has written the pet memoir I Want to Kill the Dog.

Obviously tongue in cheek and meant to be humorous, this small book is the antithesis of the many dog (or other pet) adoration tales which abound on bookstore shelves right now.  The problem is not that Cohen doesn't love the dogs that Vieira brings home.  The problem is that he's actually fairly humorless about why he doesn't and his reasons are not varied and many but limited and repetitious.  Whether he actively dislikes the dogs in their life or not, he supports Vieira's great desire to acquire pets even when her desire is irresponsible towards another living creature (the dog itself) and its acquisition is certainly not a mutual decision.  Of course, he glories in the animals that have had to be returned or given away, feeling that this failure to integrate the dogs into their lives validates his dislike of the creatures and legitimately explains and excuses his lack of understanding for his wife's critter obsession.  Instead, this attitude makes him seem to be an uncaring jerk.

Now, I certainly think that even dog lovers (and yes, I am one myself) could have appreciated and laughed at a book that poked fun at crazy critter people and the dogs in their lives.  My own dogs are certainly not perfect and they might, just maybe, drive my husband absolutely batty but this book did not turn out to be the entertaining and funny at all.  The writing was pedestrian and simplistic.  Cohen comes off badly and his portrayal of Vieira is as a dingbat.  The biggest redeeming feature here was that the book was short, the margins are wide, and the spacing between lines is enormous.  On second thought, for the price of the book, that makes for another big negative.  Perhaps others will enjoy this far more than I did.  For me, it was a disappointment all the way around.


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