J.R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip is one of those books that you either warm to right off the bat or never. At least that’s my conjecture, since I personally have a soft spot for it a mile wide. Or more like a city block long—Tulip is one of those books that I think appeals not just to dog owners, but to urban dog owners in particular. There’s a distinction.
A certain scatalogical and at the same time almost delicate thread runs through the book, dwelling as it does on the dog Tulip’s sexual and bathroom habits at great length—yet as anyone who’s ever wielded the little plastic bag twice a day knows, that’s not such an odd thing. Owning a dog in the city and observing dog litter laws shifts the balance of power just a tiny bit. It adds an element of attentiveness on the part of the human, a little Untouchable-grade devotion. Everyone likes to joke about the job of the guy who picks up after the elephants, but other than matters of scale, how much different are we? For that reason, that push-pull of disgust and adoration inherent in owning a city dog, I love Ackerley’s book. (Although I’ll cop to letting his persnickety bachelor’s voice encourage my affections—in real life I have no patience for ill-mannered dogs, no matter how charming either party is.)
So I’m delighted to discover that there’s an animated film of My Dog Tulip. It’s been in the works since 2006, but apparently just made it to the Ottawa Film Festival last fall. The artists, Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, have worked for Nickelodeon and PBS; their Still Life with Animated Dogs was featured on Independent Lens. The animation in My Dog Tulip is terrific, simultaneously old-world and hip, which should more than make up for the any slightness of the book’s plot, and the voiceover cast is stellar: Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave, and Isabella Rossellini, among others. This seems like a perfect marriage of book and film. I’ll be waiting for it to turn up in New York—everything has to land here eventually—at which point I’ll report back. In the meantime, take half an hour out of your day and watch Still Life with Animated Dogs, which is unsentimentally charming and will bank the fires of your heart, even if you only love dogs a little.
(Thanks for the heads up, DG.)