Automatic Safe Dog By Jet McDonald. Book review

AUTOMATIC SAFE DOG By Jet McDonald, Eibonvale Press, Paperback £8.99

Reviewed by Adam J. Shardlow

Absurdist fiction is hard to pull off. Stories in which logic is thrown out of the window, with characters acting in seemingly bizarre ways, forever searching for meaning in an altogether meaningless world are not that common because absurdist fiction still needs a heart, a resonance to pull people in and keep them reading.

This story centres on Terribly “Telby” Velour, a dog-comber at Pet Furnishings, who seems to have a dentistry fixation (a reoccurring theme in Dali’s surrealist art, which according to Freud symbolises sexuality (but, so did pretty much everything in Freud’s view)). Pet Furnishings is a company that take live dogs and through careful insertion of runners of teak, turns the poor pooches into living furniture sculptures, making them the hot desire of every consumerist family. It is in this lowly position that he meets and falls instantly in love with Ravenski, a rich high flyer who climbs the corporate ladder through her father’s influence.

She is his downfall. Losing his job at Pet Furnishings on the day he meets her, he decides to win her back by getting a job in the company at the highest level using a false identity. Once inside, the corporate world around Telby deteriorates fast. He finds himself unable to trust his colleagues, shown as flawed egoists or else motivationally lost, and begins to challenge what is real and what is fake.

The ideas centre on modern corporate greed and wasteful business practises, the loss of the self and to some degree animal abuse. The writing is sparse, moving the ‘plot’ along at pace, and Telby is likeable enough to make him engaging. It reminds me, somewhat, of the 80s drama ‘A Very Peculiar Practise,’ with some good humour sewn through and an anarchic sensibility. In the end, however, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of a great absurdist novel. It feels just a little bit free-wheeling, as if written with no clear goal and an undefined ending, which at the end of the day makes the message somewhat sparse.