Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesdays Tomes: My Dog Tulip

I don't know about y'all, but cold winter months give me a lot more motivation to curl up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate than to do just about anything else. Sometimes I get stuck in a rut, though. I find one series I love and when I finish all of the books that are out and then go into mourning that I'm done and don't read again for weeks. Or, I reading nothing but books with dogs in them for weeks and then find myself having a discussion about books with people who never pick up dog books and I look like the weirdo who doesn't read serious literature. Or, I read several Holocaust novels in a row--that always puts me in a weird place. I needed some help branching out.

I looked at a few 2015 reading challenges and most of them were 50+ books. As much as I love reading, I also have a dog who requires a lot of exercise and a job that requires a lot of reading, so trying to read almost a book a week was setting myself up for failure. My super awesome future sister-in-law brought the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge to my attention.

Read more about the challenge here.
The challenge is simple. You read 12 books. If you're like me, you probably have one on your shelf that fits into just about every category (and pretty much every book on your shelves could fit into number 1). Periodically, over the rest of the year, I'll be posting about my book challenge--because hey, I'm much more successful at achieving goals when I have other people holding me accountable. Since I don't usually post on Tuesdays and since Tuesday has nice alliteration with tomes, when I finish a book, I'll post about it on Tuesdays. If you'd like to join me in this challenge, I'd love to hear about what you're reading, too!

While most of the books I post about probably won't be dog-related, for a book you've been meaning to read I chose My Dog Tulip by J. R. Ackerley.

I'm not sure when I bought this book or how I even heard of it--maybe Amazon recommended it when I ordered other dog books or maybe I saw it on Netflix and decided to read the book first. It had been on my shelf waiting to be read for over a year, though, so I decided to start with this one. Plus, it was short and I was excited to read a book about a man with a dysfunctional dog, so I thought I'd fly through it in no time.

I was wrong.

The blurb on the back intrigued me as it talked about Ackerley connecting with his dog Tulip in a profound way and mentioned Tulip's erratic behavior. There's nothing I love more than a good story about a dog that's a little bit psycho. The cover even had a quote from The New Yorker calling it "One of the bona-fide dog-lit classics." Since I love all things New Yorker, how could I go wrong with this book?

I continued to be excited as I read the introduction by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. She writes, ". . . it's as if he were saying, 'I love her even if she's bad, and you can't.' Nor does he ask us to understand her." Another check in the excitement column. I've loved Barley since the moment I took her into the meet-and-greet room at the shelter, but I understand she's not a dog that everyone can love--or even like. And that's ok. So I felt like I would relate to this book.

Then I started the actual story. It was the slowest dog book I've ever read. The best thing about it was the dog's name. I'm rather fond of the name Tulip now.

The first chapter wasn't bad--in fact, it's probably one most people can relate to. Ackerley writes about the challenges of finding a vet when Tulip writhes and growls and snaps during exams and he goes through several vets until he finds the one that tries a new approach that settles Tulip down. Then he spends 30 pages on a chapter entitled "Liquids and Solids"--you can guess what that one is about. 

The rest of the book--112 more pages--is all about Ackerley trying to find a "husband" for Tulip. He doesn't want puppies. But he wants his dog to experience a full life and is convinced she can never be happy if she doesn't have sex. So he searches for other owners who will let their male dogs impregnate her--Tulip wants nothing to do with the other dogs, though. But he continues to search and talks at length about trying to stimulate her with vaseline to prepare her for these adventures. Then when she's finally impregnated by a local street dog, he considers drowning the female puppies. Spoiler: He doesn't. But he also doesn't find good homes for the puppies. Then he spends writes of never wanting to go through any of that again--but he doesn't want to spay her because that will deprive her of something--so he talks about how difficult it is to watch her be sexually frustrated for weeks.

Dog breeding isn't something that I really know much about. My aunt has purebred dalmatians, so I know a little about the process of how she got her dogs and what makes her breeder a responsible one. My best friend as a purebred English bulldog, so I got a little more insight from his experience. But I felt like I was reading a kind of tame dog version of 50 Shades of Grey. I know the book was originally published in 1965 (although the intro was published in 1999--so Thomas' praise of the story really baffles me), so there were different ideas about breeding. But this book was not for me.

What about you? Have any of you read this book? (Or seen the movie--should I give that version of the story a try?) What books have been sitting on your shelves that you've been meaning to get to?

Next, I'll be tacking a book you chose because of the cover, which this time is Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan--I have no estimate of when that post will happen since I just got three sets of essays to grade this week, but I'm a few chapters in and it's already more my style than Tulip!

And don't forget to share what you're reading! Fun new book ideas might be the only thing that gets me through this winter!


  1. What a cool challenge! I just don't have the time to read that I used to, since I started the blog. I used to easily read a book in a week or less too. Now I usually have a dog related book going, and occasionally agree to do reviews for authors, so at least I have an excuse to read!
    I would definitely pass on My Dog Tulip though, that does not sound like my cup of tea at all!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. I realized over the holidays how much I've missed reading for fun, so I've been trying to carve out at least 30 minutes to just read a chapter or two of something that's not school related! That's why I'm so glad my future sister-in-law passed this challenge on to me because it seems reasonable and not something that will add extra stress. I'm glad you still have excuses to fit books in, too! My Dog Tulip might be the right book for somebody, but it definitely wasn't one I'd ever recommend to anyone else!

  2. Yikes, not sure I want to read that one! I need to start picking out books so I can get started! Right now I'm reading one that mom gave me for Christmas. Not sure what category I want that to fill :-)

    1. Haha! I know--I have several books that can fill multiple categories, so I think the hard thing will be narrowing it down to 12 books :)

  3. I've had that book for several years now and just cannot get into it. I try, and always find myself walking away. I love the challenge!

    Monty and Harlow

    1. I'm so glad it's not just me! I forced myself to finish it because of the reading challenge--and because I was just so certain that eventually it would get better. I will not be rereading it, though!