Did you like that book you recently finished? You know, the one that you thought was ultimately about fear and resiliency? The one you told your book club really changed your “perspective on things”? The one you gave 5 stars to on Goodreads and then posted your review to Facebook with the caption: “Do yourself a favor”? You liked it? So glad to hear it.
Unfortunately, it did not like you.
It did not like how literally you took the part about the dog and his master. You thought that the dog “was a dog,” as you told your friend Brian when you were describing the book to him. The dog was not really a dog. The dog and his master were symbols of dominance. Why else do you think the master was referred to as “The Master?” The book would have given him a name if he was supposed to be a literal person, obviously. He also wouldn’t have spent so much time hitting the dog with a piece of chain link fence if the chain link fence was a literal chain link fence. That’s just perverse. The chain link fence was a symbol for a fence.
The book did not like how metaphorically you took the part about the kangaroo and the egret. It was just a kangaroo and an egret—not everything has to be a symbol? It definitely was not a symbol of caregiving and freedom, as you took it. The narrator was in Australia! The egret inside the kangaroo pouch was just a humorous interaction with local fauna to establish a sense of place.
It also did not like how you ascribed great significance to the second to last conversation the narrator had with his father. When you underlined the phrase, “Son, sometimes life will give you kangaroos and sometimes it will give you egrets” and you wrote “THIS IS THE POINT OF THE BOOK” in the margin: you were wrong. That was not the point. Again, that was a demonstration of the variety of wildlife in Perth, Australia. No offense, but the book had really hoped to find an audience of more discerning readers.
The book did not like you, but the book did take a liking to your book club nemesis, Judy. You know, Judy? The one who always remembers when it’s her turn to bring punch? Judy correctly pointed out that the trip to Australia was superfluous to the narrative. The author struggled with how to get his narrator out of the cycle of gambling addiction and, at the time, a trip to Australia seemed like a good enough distraction for him to break free. It became clear to the author that the narrator didn’t need to get to Australia, he just needed to try out pet ownership, but his editor liked the narrative break and levity Australia provided before the reader encountered those admittedly difficult chain link fence scenes. You undermined any levity by squeezing every ounce of literal joy out of the kangaroo and egret encounter.
The book was especially displeased when you announced the narrator to be both unreliable and unlikable. Wrong and wrong. The whole point, you dingbat, was to understand that the narrator was a product of his surroundings: the son of a Hilton manager in Las Vegas circa 2004. He did, indeed, once walk in on two parakeets biting the ears of a Cirque du Soleil performer, it was not a false memory from his childhood, as you so boldly claimed. Your failure to find him sympathetic made you pretty unsympathetic, pal. To the book, that is.
The book was relieved when you loaned it to your friend, Becky. Becky is making slow progress through the book, but she is thus far withholding judgement. She thinks the egret is “cute” and she’s a little confused by the smoking gun the narrator is always carrying, but she’s not asking inane questions like: “how is that gun still smoking?” She understands that books are art, they are subjective, they are, most of the time, more self-aware than she is.