Words The Dog Knows


Words the Dog Knows
J.R. Carpenter

October 2008
5×7 inches, 168 pages
$15 CDN / US

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Winner of the Expozine Award for Best Book!

J. R. Carpenter’s long-awaited first novel Words the Dog Knows follows the paths of a quirky cast of characters through the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal. Simone couldn’t wait to get out of rural Nova Scotia. In Montreal she buries her head in books about far off places. Her best friend Julie gets her a job in the corporate world. Travelling for business cures Simone of her restlessness. One summer Julie’s dog Mingus introduces Simone to Theo. They move in together. Theo is a man of few words. Until he and Simone get a dog, that is. They set about training Isaac the Wonder Dog to: sit, come, stay. Meanwhile, he has fifty girlfriends to keep track of and a master plan for the rearrangement of every stick in every alleyway in Mile End. He introduces Theo and Simone to their neighbours. He trains them to see the jumbled intimacy of Mile End’s back alleyways with the immediacy of a dog’s-eye-view.

Carpenter writes with humour and directness, melding the emotional precision of her award-winning short fiction with the narrative ingenuity of her pioneering works in electronic literature.  The result is a fresh and accessible first novel written and illustrated in the vernacular of the neighbourhood where cooking smells, noisy neighbours and laundry lines criss-cross the alleyway one sentence at a time. Words the Dog Knows is a story because of a dog. Walking though the same back alleyways day after day, Theo and Simone come to see their neighbourhood — and each other — in a whole new way.

“If you’ve ever loved a dog, Carpenter’s last act should have you rooting for stricken Isaac like he’s one of your own.” — Globe and Mail

“J.R. Carpenter writes love songs for friends of dogs and survivors of childhood. A true artist of the sentence, her observations about love in all its human and animal guises are both profound and hilarious. The music of Words the Dog Knows is extraordinary — open to any page of this moving, deeply funny novel and you’ll see what I’m talking about.”
— Karen Russell, author of St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

“J.R. Carpenter is an artist who illuminates us with her uniquely quirky sense of perception and play. Where we see dumb objects and hear nothing but silence, she reveals wit and sprightly language. Be sure, the dog knows way more words than sit and roll over.”
— Jason Camlot, author of The Debaucher

Visit J. R. Carpenter’s personal site.

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