Lit Isn’t Dead: Hello bookworms from across the globe! Welcome to the Literature Isn’t Dead radio talk show. Today we will be talking about André Alexis’ new novel Fifteen Dogs. It is the winner of the 2015 Giller Prize, the winner of the 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the current talk of the book community. Joining us now is Oluchi to talk about this exceptional novel. Thanks for coming, Oluchi.
Oluchi: Thanks for having me here.
LID: Now tell me, what is Fifteen Dogs about?
Oluchi: It’s a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo which leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their new unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggle with new thoughts and feelings.
LID: Sounds interesting. Is that what compelled you to read it in the first place?
Oluchi: I’m not a dog lover. In fact, I’m afraid of dogs, so I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate nor like this book. However, I saw mention of Greek Mythology in the summary, which triggered some nostalgic vibes from one of my favorite childhood series called Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan. I’m glad I picked it up this unique and philosophical novel.
LID: What do you mean by “philosophical”?
Oluchi: What does it mean to be human? There are many novels who choose to try and answer this question but in my opinion, André has answered it the best. Apollo and Hermes placed a bet on the dogs to prove if human intelligence is a gift or a curse. From the beginning, the reader watches how these dogs form their own civilization within themselves and we get a better look as to why humans may do other things.
For example, they explore how humans react towards a difference in their environment. When the dogs received their consciousness, some chose to accept it and develop it further while others chose to suppress it and ignore it. When humans are introduced to something that challenges the way we think or messes with traditional values, some will accept it with open arms, but most will try to eradicate it because they are afraid or too stubborn to allow it to place its influence. As complicated as humans are, there are simple patterns within our thinking process. This book is philosophical in the best of senses, dealing with concepts of individual freedom vs. pack conformity, the old ways vs. the new ways, domination vs. submission, tortured knowledge vs. mindless happiness, and more.
LID: You describe this with so much depth, I would’ve mistaken you for a philosopher!
Oluchi: Ahaha sometimes trying to describe human behavior gets quite entertaining.
LID: I would agree. Do you have any favorite dogs from the pack?
Oluchi: Majnoun was my fav dog. He’s a black poodle that is calm and collected. He is loyal to those who treat him right and thinks before he acts. If I ever had to own a dog, I would love to have him. However, I wouldn’t dare come between his friendship with Nira. They forged a bond based on minimal communication and while learning about one another. She communicated with him as if he were a human, while he would respond with nods and shakes, and even make effort to learn what she likes no matter how difficult it was for him to understand. They’re the perfect example of a friendship that was meant to be.
LID: Awww that sounds extremely adorable. Since you have already read this novel, what would you rate it, 1 being terrible and 5 being amazing?
Oluchi: This unique, heartfelt, and surprisingly philosophical Fifteen Dogs is a beautiful novel, through and through. I give it 4/5 stars for questioning humanity and using a dog’s perspective to find the answers. After reading this story, I will never look at dogs the same way again.
LID: Thank you for your insight on André Alexis’ award winning novel Fifteen Dogs. Are there any last things you’d like to say?
Oluchi: Oh yeah! I was watching America’s Got Talent the other day. During the auditions, there was a dog who could count and read numbers. That act reminded me of the novel and made me wonder if the Greek Gods forgot about one last dog.
LID: What a coincidence. I saw the same act too! The link to the video will be provided below. Thanks again for coming.
Oluchi: This was fun.We should do this more often.
LID: Yes. Yes, we should.