Every so often it’s good to get in on the ground floor of something, so this past summer I treated myself to a year’s worth of Electric Literature, starting with the inaugural issue. It’s very worth checking out: a sophisticated literary journal available on a number of different platforms (print, Kindle, eBook, iPhone); an associated blog, The Outlet, with interesting and offbeat content; and a series of animated shorts, each riffing on a sentence from one of the issue’s stories, which have trickled out gradually like little rewards for paying attention. The work itself is first-rate — not particularly avant-garde, but all of it strong, memorable fiction.
The collection is bookended by Lydia Millet’s “Sir Henry,” a bittersweet meditation on love and devotion by a dog walker to the stars. Its animation, by Luca Dipierro, was probably my favorite of the bunch—neat artwork, moody music, and not least the fact that the sentence it was based on, “Sometimes he wished he could gather all the dogs he loved most and walk off the end of the world with them,” is something I think at least once a day. Millet’s first short story collection, Love in Infant Monkeys, came out from Soft Skull at the end of September, and it looks to be equally quirky and creaturecentric.
The stories are spun around animals and celebrities. The abovementioned Sir Henry is David Hasselhoff’s dog, and Madonna, Sharon Stone, Jimmy Carter, and Noam Chomsky make appearances as well. In a recent Flavorwire interview, Millet says
It started with an autobiography I read by Joy Adamson’s husband George — you know, of Born Free, the late-’60s lion movie. I wrote about him, and then decided I wanted to write about other known figures and their encounters with animals. I wanted to do some more fictional riffs on true pairings. I’m always listening for animal stories, so in this case I was listening, and browsing, for celebrity-and-animal stories or relationships. These were just the ones that filtered down to me and caught my attention. Except for the one about Noam Chomsky in the dump — my husband actually ran into him there, and he was actually trying to get rid of a gerbil cage.
For literate animal lovers not busy running into famous linguists at the dump, you have just under a week to get the pets costumed and photographed for the New Yorker Book Bench’s 2009 Critterati Contest: Send in a picture of your pet outfitted as the literary character of your choice by October 25, and you could win a copy of Indognito: A Book of Canines in Costume. According to the Book Bench, “Cross-dressing is permitted;
punning is tolerated; excessive Photoshopping is not.” The Like Fire mascot has been entered, of course.