And a Dog Called Fig
Solitude, Connection, the Writing Life
by Helen Humphreys
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Pub Date 08 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 20 Oct 2022
And a Dog Called Fig is the story of one writer’s life with dogs (including a frisky new puppy), how they are uniquely ideal companions for building a creative life, and some delightful tales about dogs and their famous writers
Into my writer's isolation will come a dog, to sit beside my chair or to lie on the couch while I work, to force me outside for a walk, and suddenly, although still lonely, this writer will have a companion.
An artist’s solitude is a sacred space, one to be guarded from the chaos of the world, where the sparks of inspiration can be kindled into fires of creation. But within this quiet also lie loneliness, self-doubt, the danger of collapsing too far inward.
An artist needs a familiar, a companion with emotional intelligence, innate curiosity, an enthusiasm for the world beyond, but also the capacity to rest contentedly for many hours. What an artist needs, Helen Humphreys would say, is a dog.
And a Dog Called Fig is a memoir of the writing life told through the dogs Humphreys has lived with and loved over a lifetime, including Fig, her new Vizsla puppy. Interspersed are stories of other writers and their own irreplaceable companions: Virginia Woolf and Grizzle, Gertrude Stein and Basket, Thomas Hardy and Wessex—who walked the dining table at dinner parties, taking whatever he liked—and many more.
A love song to the dogs who come into our lives and all that they bring—sorrow, mayhem, reflection, joy—this is a book about steadfast friendship and loss, creativity and craft, and the restorative powers of nature. Every work of art is different; so too is every dog, with distinctive needs and lessons. And if we let them guide us, they will show us many worlds we would otherwise miss.
Includes Black-and-White Photographs
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 14 members
This book is a delight. It has all the warm coziness of curling up in front of a warm fire, book in hand, hot beverage handy, and a warm dog on your lap. It is, as the book blurb says, "A love song to the dogs who come into our lives, and all that they bring --sorrow, mayhem, meditation, joy -- this is a book about the beauty of a steadfast canine friend and the restorative powers of nature. Just as every work of art is different, every dog is different -- with distinctive needs and lessons to offer. If we let them guide us, they, like art, will show us many worlds we would otherwise miss."
"And a Dog Called Fig" should be on every dog lover's shelf and be read and read again and again. While Humphreys writes of her own writing journey and that of other writers, it's the story of her connection to her dogs that supplies the connection. We learn from them just as they learn from us. In return, they offer unconditional love, even if they do offer up the occasional questioning look or side-eye. Bottom line, if you love dogs, you need the book.
When I laughed aloud of her recounting of the story of Thomas Hardy's dog Wessex, who seemed to have the run of his home, walking along the tabletop and helping itself to whatever took its fancy at dinner parties, my own dog gave me a quizzical look. I was reminded of that later in the book when I encountered Humphrey's mention of one of her own dog's looks. The look of "What are you doing? I didn't say you could do that." Yes, Humphreys knows dogs and says elsewhere that dogs "represent balance, serenity and is a sound creature in a crazed world." How true that is. This book is a keeper.
Thanks so much #NetGalley and #FarrarStrausAndGiroux for giving me the chance to read this wonderful book. I will definitely be on the look out for #HelenHumphreys' other work.
So much of AND A DOG CALLED FIG encompasses walks Helen Humphreys takes with her new puppy, Fig, and the beloved dogs of her past--and one of the joys of this memoir is the reader's sense of having accompanied them, too--and how the walks enriched not only Humphreys' life, but the reader's too. An extra treat is the insight into other authors and their dogs past--don't miss the photos. A rich, contemplative, intelligent read which will not only make you look at your own dog with new insight--but will send you to the shelves to read Humphreys' previous works. Highly recommended.
Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for my digital copy of And a Dog Called Fig. I was drawn to it because it's a personal tale about dogs and writing. The author alternates between a diary of her experience with her new puppy and stories about her life, her dogs, and famous authors' relationships with their dogs. Just some of the authors included were Virginia Woolf, Maurice Sendak, Emily Bronte, Margaret Wise Brown (who had beagles!), Agatha Christie, and Alice Walker. The book included photos not only of the author's dogs, but also of some of the historical dogs. Somehow seeing these old photos of authors with their dogs made them more real.
If you're a dog owner, you'll probably relate to a lot of what Helen Humphreys goes through with her dogs over the years- when your beloved dog passes away, you bring a new dog into your home, and they feel like a stranger; how we learn from dogs; how they force us to take breaks when we're working from home; how we love them unconditionally, and they love us right back.
I like this quote about the joy we get from our relationship with dogs. "It is such a simple thing, walking with or after the dog, watching them take in all the smells and sights of the day. I'm not sure why it conjures up such happiness in me. But like all the happy times I can remember in my life, it is about a sense of being notched fully into the present moment, with no thought or desire outside of that."
I haven't read anything by Helen Humphreys before now, but this book has made me want to. And a Dog Called Fig will be published on March 8, 2022. I recommend it!
"Into my writer's isolation will come a dog, to sit beside my chair or to lie on the couch while I work, to force me outside for a walk...although still lonely, this writer will have a companion."
Helen shares a blueprint for her writing process, a method enhanced by the presence of a canine companion. "Writing all day was hard, although not as hard as the loneliness that attended it." "At the beginning of my writing, and my life journey, there was a dog."
When Helen's beloved Vizsla, "Charlotte" crossed the Rainbow Bridge, she purchased a new puppy she named "Fig". Helen kept a journal of the ups and downs of training after having had "Charlotte", the dog of a lifetime. Walking with "Fig" through a big field that months before she walked with "Charlotte", "...it wasn't so much a memory as an intersection-the two events came together in the same place and touched one another...".
Helen's words echoed my experience as a dog owner. My fourteen year old Springer Spaniel, "Whiz", was playfully anointed with the nickname "Franklin". What followed was the naming of our newbie, a rescue puppy, "Franklin", to channel our beloved dog. The two "Franklin's" were best buds, the puppy ever so gentle with her frail companion and namesake.
Helen describes a method of writing that works well for her...a structured style. "I read Virginia Woolf...I followed Woolf's example of how to live a writing day...Life for Woolf was a morning of writing and an afternoon of walking with a dog, a routine she maintained for most of her life." According to Helen, "Structure is a novel, and in life, is the perfect balance of order and chaos...the structure of a day could be...four dog walks...creative freedom...in this mix of the expected and the unexpected make for the best writing."
"And a Dog Called Fig: Solitude, Connection, the Writing Life" by Helen Humphreys is enhanced by black and white photos of dogs that complemented the lives of some famous authors. Emily Bronte's dog "Keeper", accompanied her on walks across "the bleak Yorkshire moors." Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas has three white standard poodles in succession, each one called "Basket". Helen Humphrey's new puppy, "Fig", entered into a continuum of twenty-two years of Vizsla ownership for Helen. As "Fig" matured, would he develop any quirky behaviors? "There is often incongruity in character...sometimes...the most interesting part of someone...an anomaly...a wild card." Dogs live in the moment, perhaps a life lesson to be learned by us humans! A highly recommended read for writers and dog lovers.
Thank you Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
A lovely memoir on writing and the author's many dogs, including her beloved Fig seen on the cover. I really connected with Helen as she describes the impact her dogs have had on her life, and on an assortment of writers whose dogs meant much to them, including Emily Brontë, Agatha Christie, and Maurice Sendak. A delightful read for dog lovers, writers, and those who seek a comforting book on an inclement day. Out now.
Thanks to the author, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and NetGalley for the ARC; opinions are mine.
#andadogcalledfig #helenhumphreys #FarrarStrausGiroux #netgalley