If you want to write historical fiction, this is how

June 17, 2007|By Victoria A. Brownworth | Victoria A. Brownworth,Special to The Sun

Ghostwalk

By Rebecca Stott

The New Yorkers

By Cathleen Schine

Farrar Straus Giroux/Sarah Crichton Books / 304 pages / $24

The world is composed of cat people and dog people and they know who they are. The urban landscape is rife with dog owners and their pets; dogs often appear to be the mortar that keeps an otherwise alienated and aloof citizenry connected. In Cathleen Schine's sharp, poignant and witty new novel, one might well ask, "Who let the dogs out?" On a tidy and tony little block off Central Park, in the great dog-eat-dog world of uptown Manhattan, people move in and out of their urban anomie led by their pooches, who seem to have a far keener sense of the necessity for human (and canine) interaction than do their owners. The novel focuses on this one block and the dog owners who inhabit it. Like many a neighborhood within a big city, this little spot is a hamlet. Ensconced there are the urbane, the lonely, the disenfranchised, the lost, the yearning, the embittered. Schine takes us on walk after walk, the three-times-daily duty of dog owners, plus the weekend romps. We meet and greet with the kind of abandon dogs ritually allow themselves, but people rarely do. As Schine tells it, New Yorkers are, at heart, schmaltzy. They ache for love, connection, cocooning -- which may be why they have dogs: Dogs love unconditionally without any of the diffidence of cats -- or people. As the story evolves, Schine tosses tidbit after tidbit at her characters and to her readers. Schine's sleek little parable about love and loss in the big city is neatly layered with intersecting stories of each character. A sweetly savvy paean to dogs and the people who love them.

Victoria A. Brownworth is the author and editor of more than 20 books, most recently "The Golden Age of Lesbian Erotica: 1920-1940" and "Bed: New Lesbian Erotica." She teaches writing and film at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

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