Monday, February 22, 2010

An Enthralling, Gripping Read

Regular readers of this blog may remember my rant against novelist M.J.Hyland for professionally branding herself 'MJ' and not 'Maria'. I called it a major marketing and literary mistake.

Well Eva Hornung has fallen into the same trap by changing her surname from Sallis to Hornung mid-way through her illustrious career. Whatever her personal reasons or circumstances, it's just the wrong thing to do. It trashes all the fragile, emotional connections that bind brands to their loyal customers and believers, connections that take time and painstaking effort to build in the first place. As well, it has to be said, Sallis is a much more felicitous name than the clumsy Germanic Hornung. It rolls easily off the tongue. I trust Text, Eva's publisher, fought long and hard with her about this. Pity they lost.

Next, the cover. It's another marketing mistake. Like so many covers it was quite obviously done by someone who hadn't read the book. This is not Lassie or any book about a dog. In fact the reason I have come late to this book, which was originally published in March last year, is because of the cover. I'm not a dog lover, and have never owned a dog. I passed over this book because I was not attracted to reading a book about a dog; or a book about boy who was a dog, or thought he was a dog; or about a dog who thought he was a boy - whatever.

Now these beefs are off my chest - to the book itself.

Quite frankly, Dog Boy is one of the best novels I've ever read. It is simply amazing, and I'm going to bore all my acquaintances for ages by pressuring them to read it. It's enthralling, gripping, quite extraordinary in its imaginative reach and power, and in the beauty and absolute clarity of its language. Not a word in this book is wrong or inappropriate or misplaced or just there for effect. And best of all it resonates with deep layers of meaning. It's a book that pushes the boundaries of our sympathy and understanding, and demands we confront the seemingly familiar and comfortable in a whole new way.

And I love the way it's set in Moscow. It's so right.

I can't rave enough about this wonderful book. I'd describe it as perfect, just perfect.


  1. What on earth makes you think I haven't the right to call myself whatever I like? I happen to hate the name Maria and prefer the sound of MJ Hyland. There was (and is) no confused and deranged intention behind it. I simply prefer the sound it makes. Maria Hyland (AKA MJ Hyland)

  2. Hi Maria
    Of course you have the right to call yourself whatever you like, but I also have the right to criticise your choice.