Personally I feel sorry for the dog. Maybe dogs don’t care about these things but if someone gave me the clap, I reckon they’d be mortified if I wrote a book about it. Thankfully, Adam Morris deals with Feathers the dog and his main character Saul’s ‘green wang’ problem early on in this hilarious book. Feathers exits stage left at the end of Chapter One and the reader can breathe, smile with relief and move on to Saul’s philosophising about how easy it would be to get laid if he were gay, his negative thoughts about his negative thoughts diary and a series of rather nasty ‘incidents’ involving Akubra hats, shotguns, Russian dancing and a chookhouse.
Saul’s list of desirables is a job, a girlfriend, a car and somewhere to live other than his mate Ralph’s chookhouse. He had a good job relief teaching once, until a regrettable Hunter S Thompson moment. Thank goodness the students had left or he might have been arrested and sacked. For his next job interview he wrote eight pages of performance criteria on “... learning grids, appropriateness, guidelines, equivalent experiences, team leaders.
Where had all the men gone?”
His last girlfriend was three years ago. Now Saul has difficulties hiding his erection in the welfare office queue. He's getting flashbacks of the porn he watched the night before and pondering on the sex lives of the oddly unattractive couple ahead of him. “Maybe one of them had persuaded the other to do something regrettable in the bedroom last night, maybe there was an embarrassment in the air neither could stomach bringing up ...”
If Saul sounds like a sad, loser, anti-hero, then that's because he is. This is the Australian version of the White Male F*ck-up Novel after all. Underlying most of Saul’s problems and nasty incidents/accidents is alcoholism and the accompanying depression but Adam Morris is deft and subtle enough in his writing to avoid mentioning these clangers. He just concentrates on the disaster area.
I can recognise some of Saul’s ‘incidents’ (but not the dog one) - his fumbling interior monologues on trains, his disconnect with community - and it makes me wince, just a little bit. My Dog Gave Me the Clap is a very funny book – a giggle-helplessly-in-the-dentist’s-waiting-room kind of funny. The problem with laughing at Saul’s f*ck ups is that any schadenfreude is followed by an uncomfortable niggling feeling that we are a mere shandy away from Saul’s hopelessness. Halfway through a moment of cracking up over another of Saul’s mid-trip, delusional balls-ups, I am suddenly sobered by a vague memory of the day we took those strange pills, went to the buskers festival and offered up our bodies as props ...
After a counselling session with the local priest, Saul's spirit begins to rally. “Saul felt lighter than when the day had started. He felt similar after vomiting from too much drink. That fresh empty feeling, that good empty feeling.”
Sometimes I just wanted to look away. I couldn’t. But I wanted to.
Saul’s observations of people can be acute and beautiful: the kindness of the lonely farmer who fed him breakfast and told him he was okay after a drinking session/photoshoot/shotgun incident gone horribly awry the previous night: the woman upstairs whose 2 am lover doesn’t argue or put out the rubbish. There is also a strange beauty to Saul’s self immolation. Call it a Flaming Lamborghini kinda beauty, except I don’t reckon he could afford to destroy himself with one of them because he doesn’t have a job right now.
Saul’s creator Adam Morris swears that despite being a musician and lad like Saul, this is not one of those autobiographical first novels. Righteo. Adam Morris’ dog says he resents the implication. Fair enough. Despite these conflicts I found My Dog Gave Me the Clap to be a funny, strange and compelling read.
My Dog Gave Me the Clap