Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Literary Dog

After some soul-searching and some consulting with People Who Know About These Things, I've decided that it is okay to post excerpts from stories, poems, and other works that are still under copyright. (I'm a writer, people. I respect copyrights.) So here is another installment of The Literary Dog. 

This excerpt is from a hilarious and heartrending story by Lorrie Moore, one of my favorite short story writers of the '90s. It's called "People Like That Are the Only People Here," and it chronicles two parents' absurd and bewildered responses to their infant son's diagnosis of kidney cancer. I remember a moment of recognition as a dog owner when I read these two paragraphs near the beginning of the story. 

In Radiology, the Baby stands anxiously on the table, naked against the Mother as she holds him still against her legs and waist, the Radiologist's cold scanning disc moving about the Baby's back. The Baby whimpers, looks up at the Mother. Let's get out of here, his eyes beg. Pick me up! The Radiologist stops, freezes one of the many swirls of oceanic gray, and clicks repeatedly, a single moment within the long, cavernous weather map that is the Baby's insides.
"Are you finding something?" asks the Mother. Last year, her uncle Larry had had a kidney removed for something that turned out to be benign. These imaging machines! They are like dogs, or metal detectors: they find everything, but don't know what they've found. That's where the surgeons come in. They're like the owners of the dogs. "Give me that," they say to the dog. "What the heck is that?"

—from Lorrie Moore's "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk" in Birds of America (1998, Picador)

Art: World's Minimum Dog by Ten do Ten, 2005

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