The first instalment of the eh List! author series at the Toronto Reference Library featured Giller Award winning writer of Fifteen Dogs, André Alexis. The eh List features authors Canadian authors who have significant contributions to the Canadian literary world. Alexis was featured in conversation with Deborah Dundas, a reviewer and editor at the Toronto Star. Throughout the hour long program, Alexis did a reading of a passage from Fifteen Dogs, chatted with Dundas about the influences of his book series, answered questions from the audience and finished up with a signing.
Fifteen Dogs is the second in a series of books written by Alexis that take the theme of divinity in different contexts. The first book in the series was Pastoral, which was published in 2014 and the next instalment of the series is to be expected in 2017. Alexis tells the audience that the next book will be continue with the contextual divinity theme, with ghost stories and a take on Treasure Island. To me, the most interesting discussion between Alexis and Dundas revolved around the concept of the divine. Fifteen Dogs is an apologue and thus starts with two dramatis personae, Apollo and Hermes, who are drinking in a Toronto bar. It is in this book that divinity makes an actual appearance, rather than in an abstract or deux ex machina role. The inclusion and direct intervention of the gods is the catalyst of the events of the book, which is what drew me to the read in the beginning.
As a reader who is interested in classically inspired texts, this book offered much as a new twist on the apologue style of narrative. However, for others, I would still recommend the book, as Alexis has a fanciful way of mythologizing Toronto which is at once foreign and incredibly familiar. Other themes that Alexis explores in his book are that of language, consciousness, love and death. With the theme of love, Alexis explains that he wanted to explore the relationship between what he sees as two contradictory elements: love and power. He also discusses whether language makes us conscious or not. In the book, one of the dogs writes dog poetry that is quite ingenious through Alexis’ explanation (I will not ruin the surprise).
This was my first TPL event, and I must say it was well facilitated for an audience of obviously hungry readers. For more information on The eh List!, including future events, please follow this link.