Tell it to the Dog is an exquisitely written memoir that is at once playful, heartbreaking and affirming. From a Dublin childhood to London, then on to Europe, to Asia and Australia, there is a deep engagement with the world in this book about growing up, about human and animal connectedness, about friendship, love and loss. Power understands the uncanniness and endurance of memory. He can make us laugh, and then stop us in our tracks at the profundity of this business of meeting life. Each of these short chapters is beautifully complete; together the whole thing shimmers. In the most delightful and subtle of ways, the language, trajectory and wisdom of Tell it to the Dog underscores our need to embrace our own vulnerabilities, to confront our experiences and memories, and to believe as Jane Austen once wrote, that -when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure'.
Robert Power was born in Dublin, spent close to fifty years based in London, and now lives in Melbourne with his wife and his youngest son. His books include In Search of the Blue Tiger (Transit Lounge) and Lulu in New York and Other Tales (Unicorn Press, 2017), a collaboration with the acclaimed American painter, Max Ferguson, in which Power has written 500-word stories depicting sixty of Ferguson's pictures.
Tell It To The Dog
Author: Robert Power
Question: What prompted you to write Tell it to the Dog?
Robert Power: Most of my writing occupies that space where fact and fiction overlap. My first novel, In Search of the Blue Tiger, along with its sequel, Tidetown, drew heavily from my childhood. The second, The Swan Song of Doctor Malloy, included numerous episodes from my thirty years working in international public health around the globe. In my short story collection Meatloaf in Manhattan, the eponymous tale, and many of the others, drew directly from events I had lived through. Similarly, Tell it to the Dog, (subtitled 'a memoir of sorts") is the remembering of a life, of emotions, of moments, rekindled and recalled, reimagined and retold. I wanted to explore the memoir genre from the perspective of how memory reconstructs what appears to be true, using different forms and styles to recount the various stories/vignettes/incidents.
Question: Was it difficult reliving certain aspects of your life when writing Tell it To The Dog?
Robert Power: Revisiting and retelling a life is coloured by age and experience, context and setting. I've been writing the pieces for Tell it to the Dog for over twenty-five years. The way I see the world and my place in it is different today in my mid-sixties, from what it was in my forties. Many accounts I have left untouched, but others have been reworked, revised and edited numerous times in order for a certain essence to emerge. I have tinkered away but have also allowed the vignettes to find their own expression, to take their own shape. For me writing is always cathartic. This book is no exception.
Question: Why the title: Tell it To The Dog?
Robert Power: It came to me when I was working in Lhasa, Tibet. There are many dogs who roam the streets. A Tibetan monk told me that Buddhists there believe dogs are one reincarnation away from human form. I have two dogs of my own who I often chat to, so the title seemed appropriately irreverent for something as personal and seemingly self-indulgent as a 'memoir".
Question: What did you learn about yourself when writing Tell it To The Dog?
Robert Power: The incidences and emotions expressed in the book relate to the people, places and things that have been part of my lived experience. In working on the individual pieces I have invariably gained greater insight into the events that occurred, their emotional impacts, and how they have shaped me as a person, even those that are from many decades in the past.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Tell It To The Dog
Author: Robert Power