Top critical review
on 2 April 2016
I am sorry really that I can only give this two stars. Overall, and 'overall' is to be very much taken as the operative word here, I mildly enjoyed it for want of a better phrase, but the book is riddled with uneven parallels, plus, it (the book) doesn't quite know what it is all about. Is it a memoir? Not entirely. Is it opinion on failed big projects? Here and there, yes, but not as much as the blurb suggests. There are also travel tales, anecdotes on other literary and arty worthies, whether in modern times involving the author, or historical.
All in all, it is quite simply, all over the place, literally and figuratively.
There is also the problem of delivery style, it is not constant. Some of the tale is about actual people, events, times, places etc, told in a simple straightforward manner. These are, just about, for me, the book's saving graces; I have to say I enjoyed these micro yarns. But, quite often the author drifts into a stuttery beat-poety style, waxing lyrical as if to save his life. Now, I ain't no Philistine, that is for sure, but for much of the arty-farty sections, I did not have a damned clue what the author was prattling on about, what he was trying to say. This was the spoiler. If he'd have kept it straight (at what point in Athens did the actual dogs become dog-like locals? for example), then it would have been much much better.
Shame. The bloke's obviously a great writer, you can glean that much, but his writing skills here were obviously on a fortnight's holiday in Rhyl, in early February.
Now if Bill Bryson had tackled the same subject matter . . .