46 thoughts on “Walking Horatio – Mark Patrick Lynch

  1. 1.

    “So what’s he called, your dog?”
    “Horatio. You know, like after Napoleon.”

    A most engaging start to this novel. I am genuinely charmed, so far. Horatio who whistles and eats Polo mints is enough to make a lifetime dog-disliker like me like HIM at least! He has three legs (and that is my last spoiler in this review, I hope), and I once worked in real life with a woman who would find a fine place in this book, I am sure, and she sure LOVED her three-legged dog and told me all about him. The different woman actually IN this first chapter, though, obsessed with the worry that Horatio might leave a ‘package’ on her drive, reminds me affectionately of my own forty-something daughter and her Marigold gloves! I am also impressed with the nature of the narrator’s character and his neighbourhood’s genius loci. His being landed, out of the blue, with looking after this strange dog for a while. And the OS marker on the moors. Yet, the fact that the narrator extrapolates about the cause of Horatio’s missing leg without really knowing the facts of the case makes me wonder who is leading whom up the garden path here! And, oh, yes, that woman in yellow gloves seems to collect leaves and twigs.

  2. “Green door, what’s that secret you’re keeping?”
    A big hit when I was 8 in 1956 – has stayed with me ever since. Do read the full lyrics on-line.

    2.

    “You didn’t bring him.”
    “Some people don’t like dogs. You could’ve been one of those people.”

    I shall now call the narrator I from now on as well as continuing to call myself I, and I meet the new neighbour called eric. eric without a capital letter. I thought: E has three legs, but now none, but what is that tail instead? This chapter involves a wonderful incipient character study of both myself and eric. Seriously, so far, this book promises to be a genuine quirky classic of literature. Just in this second chapter, there are some observations of life that will honestly stick with me forever. I won’t adumbrate them here, as I would like you to encounter them as they are first read just as I just read them. I intend to eke out and savour this book chapter by chapter on a daily basis, give or take the odd day I might miss during our difficult times at the moment.

  3. 3.

    “Not a lot of laughs to be had in a graveyard,” I said.

    I dunno. Anyway, a chapter of Fall leaves where aptly above I mentioned leaves, too, in a different context. A description here of my shifting relationship with my girl friend Claudia delights me, particularly on my own secluded bi-partisan Golden Wedding Anniversary today in Lockdown, a delightfully shifting bobble-hat touching relationship, in its own way, I guess. Some more philosophical truths in this chapter that pleasantly touched my brain, too. I am reading this book simply to ensure that it exists in the first place, perhaps!

  4. 4.
    Another very entertaining chapter, about making a pig’s ear out of a Halloween swede and smoking pot with a non-doctor friend called Dr Gee (two lower case Es). Meanwhile, I can state that I HONESTLY had not seen this chapter’s title nor its contents when I earlier wrote this above: “I shall now call the narrator I from now on as well as continuing to call myself I,…”
    Those familiar with my style of reviewing in the past will know that I sometimes project myself into the books I am reading but this is the first time it has now happened for real, as it were! Sort of.

  5. 5.

    “Once upon a time he had a twin brother, named Geoff, with a G. But Geoff disappeared one day.”

    Effed off? Well, whatever, this is the chapter which is probably the funniest and most effective account of a hoarder you will ever read, the chapter about Jeff (with a mouth demonstrating today’s enforced ‘improbable angles of dentistry’!) where I try to sell him my spider-man sticker, accompanied by Horatio who finds the maze of Jeff’s collected belongings so alarming. And, later, it seems appropriate to me, in hindsight, that such a hoard’s even more alarming avalanche domino-rally triggering by inadvertent trip towards crumbling contagion of falling objects down the stairs seems at least to be triggered by mere mention of a stack of Dean Koontz books… see this recent Guardian article HERE about Koontz’s reference to Wuhan-400 in 1981.

  6. 6.

    Having a ride on an ice cream van, playing deafening Greensleeves, in November….
    Wonderful! So stoical, so something.

    Which stirs me to mention that I wrote this earlier today on my website…

    THE SIXEVENIGHTIES
    The decades of stoicism, tawdriness, the first Troubles, the first peccadilloes, the first mock colours of fashion and TV screens, seedy Paradise Lounges, short-lived hopes, familial disloyalties, quiet humour, diminishing churches, receding ghosts (but still haunting us), tentatively to become receding humilities…from dead audiences to quiz show upstarts…
    I continue to read and review HERE each story in the HUGE William Trevor canon…

    This Mark Patrick Lynch book, so far, has now become the finest possible on-going complement to that project, FEELING as if it is (even if it isn’t) happening in that First Dyspraxic Age … an Age before the word Dyspraxia hardly existed (even if this chapter six uses it!)…

  7. 7.

    Another chapter that gradually releases information (here in numbered sections) about my situation, about Horatio and about my sporadically dutiful girl friend Claudia. A series of movements in a Christmas suite, memories and present moments alike, and the culmination of a satisfyingly conceived fruition of Father Chritsmas’s second coming where he had once not come at all! Breaking a barking habit of a lifetime.
    And a passage I must quote in full (please forgive me), quoted for itself IN itself, and because it sweetly resonates with the ‘aslant‘ in my reading and reviewing HERE of The Haunted Sheets earlier this morning, before reading this chapter seven.
    460641E6-671C-4C4D-8932-A6D2C887F007

  8. 8.

    This is the chapter about Idle John’s book collection. Should he sell it or not? I personally wouldn’t exchange this Horatio book for anything. Even if it turns out not to be a complete book like Horatio is not a complete dog, I will keep on feeding it. It’s that sort of book. A sort of necessary symbiosis for each of us. I take it out each day.

  9. BFB151D3-929C-4416-8949-2BBC994DE0C19.

    As I meet characters out and about, some more unlikeable than others, including a postperson called Janet, I am delightfully reminded of the gentle amoral stoical obliquity, a sometimes tawdry Trevor trove of a certain time and place, and now of the Gervais ‘After Life’ that I enjoyed, but the Lynch slopes differently and is even more enjoyable. And I have had a perhaps near replica of eric’s ‘dog’ that he walks about town living in my back garden for yonks. Not that I like dogs or anything like them, I continue to insist. The exception that proves this rule, perhaps, is my seeming to like Horatio as filtered by this book.

  10. 10.

    “‘No,’ I said to Fat Person, having fully thought on the matter. ‘I think I’m awake.’”

    Not sure about ME! This is really the first chapter where I feel part of some collusive, collucid, co-vivid dreaming as reported across the land in recent weeks. A story of a mysterious bone appearing every night at the end of my bed without obvious means of it getting there. And Horatio wearing sun-glasses, that was the clincher. I’ve heard of sleepwalking, but sleep-reading? Even printed books changing their contents overnight? This book, by whatever means, sure has the knack of making me think.

  11. We have two dogs and I think of them as superpeople. I feel happier just looking at them. They have strange, half-complicated personalities. I think half-complicated is a bit happier than the alternatives.

  12. 11.

    This is the delightful chapter that contains a striking character study of everybody’s crush or wished-for squeeze called Diana Meow, here returned to us all as a community police officer. At least ‘a ghost of a purr’ fallen from the communal lips. Old scratches, too. Also it is the chapter that has the concept of ‘Daft driving’!

    “She’d kept her distance all the time we had been speaking…”

  13. 12.

    “‘Maybe we should build a raft’, I said.”

    My wife and I are in lockdown during a never-ending heatwave, and here in this book, by contrast, I am in similar lockdown by dint of continuous freak rain. Strange that I read about Rapunzel this morning in another dark nest (HERE) and rain and hair suddenly seemed in mutual synergy with each other. The Lady of Shalott, too. It seems highly appropriate, in an oblique way, that one of this chapter’s ducks turned into a swan!

  14. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

  15. 13.

    “Horatio had good music, too.”

    Both Horatio and this book have good music for me. The ‘had’ there strikes an ominous note, though? Whatever, the counterpoint of somehow provoking but laid-back delights of this book keep on coming — and this chapter is no exception. An airy portrait of a pretty deaf girl with an ugly laugh and her less than likeable white dog. Her concept of “invisible music” was unforgettable…. WILL BE unforgettable.

  16. 14.

    “But right then, being there on the grassy mountain with Claudia and Horatio felt as good as being alive could feel.”

    We all need to read this chapter, if not this whole book, as a naive but good and effective dose of stoical goodness. You see, this chapter as a fable teaches us the moral that even a memory-full retrospective stain upon a day’s happiness CAN be expunged. Here that stain, incidentally, on Claudia’s rare available usage of a car for me and her to escape our then day’s future lockdown by her looking after someone’s flat, is another flat, a frog (“Splat!”) seen in the drystone wall car park. Not a frog, though, but a toad. And we also hear here about the legend of Horatio as an erstwhile “snake worrier.”

  17. 1B4D4AD5-5C38-40CC-A57F-5F4DB8E8887915.

    “It was a Nissan no-name with a tape-deck stereo.”

    And what cassette is played by happenstance at the end of this chapter was a perfect metaphor for the synchronicities I stumble upon when seeking the accretive literary gestalt in such books as this one!
    This chapter is another entertaining episodic ‘After Life’-like ‘adventure’, one featuring not only the Nemonymous Nissan but also Fat Person, Horatio and myself called to answer the call from what we understood to be a blind man called Derek (and his own dog Liberace), a call to move his piano…

  18. 16.

    “The helicopter was like a big mechanical dragonfly clattering and whacking at the sky with its blades. […] Otherwise it was a lazy day, the kind I like best.”

    And this world depicted is the kind I like best. The obstreperous lounger, notwithstanding. A bygone age when I was middle-aged. When health and safety did not extend to preventing kids being strangled. And there was folk-dancing. Sole proprietor butchers with a friendly wave as well as dangling dewdrop. Dogs chewed noisily on huge bones. Girl friends sometimes stayed overnight. And those bones, by the way, give birth to the latest chapter title (titles which I never give you in my review) – this one an expression that will linger with you comfortably as well as uncomfortably. The only thing that reminded me of our plague days today was the sunburn on the side of the face as if you had had a close encounter. And the hissing air from the lounger’s nipple.

  19. 17.

    “Horatio gave a low growl.”

    Can there be such a thing as a high growl? Horatio, like this book itself, has become a sounding board for me, with his meaningful growls especially when I take over a mate’s window cleaning duties for a week while he’s on holiday. To keep his business simmering over, keeping the more professional rivals at bay. In fact, a hilarious week, and I admire my own creative naivety. Laurel and Hardy, eat your hearts out. At least the window job seems finite in hindsight, unlike the now endless job of being Horatio’s keeper on a temporary basis! Skiffling with sounding-boards and sudsy high-rise mops.

  20. 18.

    “She picked up her tennis racket, swung it to amuse herself, and then stuck the handle in the bag, leaving the head jutting out like a radio receiver.”

    Throughout this chapter, we have a wonderful portrait of Claudia’s girl friend Robyn, who comes without pre-warning to stay with us at my house, indefinitely, temporarily…. Whatever the case, there is also the racket of whatever she speaks aloud when asleep in the spare, quite full ‘empty room’. Anyone who has already read this chapter, will know why I quote that quote above! And not only because of the tennis racket’s ‘head’. The radio receiver also reminded me that I feel this book takes place in the 1980s in England, when I was middle-aged, whatever the odd anachronism, or contrary references and statements. I nod meaningfully at Horatio, and he agrees. Actually, I think I may be Horatio’s sounding-board, rather than the other way round? “He stared as if waiting for me to say something. But I didn’t.”

  21. 19.

    “God is just ‘dog’ spelled backwards…”

    Strange that, just before reading this, I just read and reviewed Sue Harper’s ‘Backwards’ HERE!
    Anyway, God and Dog are backwards to each other… unless you live in the Tower of Babel, I guess. And, despite its relative briefness, this chapter is my favourite so far, as I outface two people selling Christianity at my front door (as they often did before lockdown). Teleological and ontological arguments regarding the Existence of God or Horatio. Whatever the case, I now have more inkling as why I can converse with God or Horatio without recourse to language, as they both understand everything I say without even understanding the words. A sort of canine or divine gestalt real-time reviewing? And I, as reviewer, wonder if I, as narrator, live in a house with the house number of 42? Or did this good book tell me earlier what the number really was?

  22. Pingback: Backwards | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

  23. 20.

    “Now that June was here,…”

    Jog, dog, pig, mug… My feeling that I am in daily tune with the book was helped even more today by the fact that, before reading this chapter, I had my usual lockdown jog around my back garden, only to find a mug that I had left out there inadvertently yesterday evening. (The garden is the same one as in the photo above of the dog-pig.) Anyway, I decided I am right about what I say about the conceit of garden ornamentation in this chapter. I am good at brainstorming ideas, I think you will agree. The idea about Horatio actually whistling real tunes is a case in point.
    Meanwhile, this chapter also deals with what you might call my being left as another sort of mug by Horatio’s missing owner! — a willing happy inspired mug, though, inasfar as Horatio and this book are concerned, I hasten to add. Aunt Babs, notwithstanding.

  24. 21.

    “Lots of things seemed possible.”

    So, based on the rule of averages and rogue medians, everything could be believed, I guess. This chapter is about a freak wind and rain storm forecast by a bald weather man (Michael Fish?) who named the storm after Horatio’s name. Possible that anachronistically it happened then (i.e. naming storms after names), and like my being called Watson or Gee without the epithet Doctor. And smoking or dreaming via the possibility of Horatio’s owner having now returned to a new ‘open plan’ as brainstormed for both my house and its plot.

  25. D7047B29-8C1F-43AD-8274-39FDE32B5F9022.

    “…the names sounded like spells from a Harry Potter book.”

    An early 1980s version of the book? Meanwhile, this is the Horatio chapter (perfectly bracketed by my need for a greater personal ‘work ethic’ and the ‘hard work’ of a universe held in theory together by string) where the domino rally of synchronicities from finding a ball of string in my drawer towards the literary audit-trail of strangely spelled or spelt plant seeds and then meeting Big Amanda again who is on a sabbatical or lockdown from cruising in her ice cream van, a summer lost, like ours, or an apocalyptic film with a broken Statue of Liberty. Statues are in today’s news, too. And beside today’s review entry is my own photo of ‘the statue of us all’.

  26. 23.

    Another number, as important as 42?

    “This happened enough times to make me wonder if it wasn’t coincidence.”

    Possibly the strangest and most magical chapter yet. Following a dearth of mail and much surveillance of postpeople After Life-like, etc, what does come through the letterbox I was surprised could actually fit through it! But it did. And I appreciated its sporadic shelter along with Horatio. Till, as all good things do, it went, but its art of magic has so far remained in my mind. As it says today at the end of The Dark Nest: ‘all people die, but art does not. It is all that remains of us.’
    This chapter is possibly literature’s first portrait of true stoicism and humility. Selfish, but essentially selfless. Touching soul’s base. But off any normal postperson’s beat.

  27. 24.

    “Long dusks in summer are conducive to such thinking. […] Perhaps on a June day like today.”

    Walking with Horatio at the back of fields near the moorland peaks, I don’t mind saying, this chapter is possibly one of the most effective of those longest childhood summers as a memory that you will ever read, involving a first kiss amid young love at age nine. Charlie then, that nine year old girl, with the same exact birthday as mine. “— with Horatio I am never sure there is such a thing as coincidence —“
    Meanwhile, Claudia had stayed at home to have a bath, “and I was okay with that.” Being okay with things is the stoical soul of this book.

  28. 25.

    “Mines’ve all been sealed up. Have been for years. Nothing gonna go down there now.”

    The ground has collapsed from under my feet, or the roof on my world has blown off, because this longish disturbing chapter has made me doubt my own sense of fiction and truth. Concerning the existence of fixtures in my life, let alone the fading memories of old age, as well as the very existences of characters here, like Horatio himself and Auntie Babs, and the one who had left me landed with looking after Horatio. And, to crown it all, the combustibility of cattle! Rawhide, rawhide, get those dogies movin’
    – honestly, a momentous chapter.

  29. 26.

    “…and they say there is no gain without pain.”

    Today’s homely Horatio truths – this book teems with oblique wisdoms and off-beat insights … and now I learn a lot about people’s relationships, their sporadic elements, their trigger points. And today also about footwear and actual feet’s wear and tear, and charity shops and self-conscious vanity about the way one looks in certain dress codes — and inferences about a dog’s thoughts when he is embarrassed upon seeing his doings being carried about in nude or transparent packages. As to welder’s clodhoppers, we all have a pair in our boots, don’t we?

  30. 27.

    This is the chapter where I lopped and chopped an apple tree with a bread knife for Mrs Carroll. And Mr Carroll “clomped” around in physical echo of Henry’s missing leg, oops, Horatio’s. Featuring homemade lemonade and two 99s on tick from Big Amanda’s resurrected ice cream van. These characters make me feel at home with this book, and I shall be sorry when it finishes. This chapter also ends with a memorable dream sequence involving a giant apple tree and a parachute. A dream sequence worthy of more famous writers. I am pleased with how I have dealt with this chapter, almost as efficiently as I earlier dealt with the apple tree! Teaches me to turn blind eyes to things I don’t really want to think about, and all is well with the world. Let’s hope it remains so. I had a most difficult day yesterday in my own real-time, but now all successfully put out of mind. At least for a while.

  31. 28.

    A momentous chapter, of course, and you will have to read it to see why. And a sort of reprise meeting of many of this book’s characters, including eric and his pig (choosing the species of one’s pet actually making it become that species is a symbol for our times?) …. With some exciting scenes of hot air balloons, and I felt that the concept of taking off and landing in one would be a metaphor for life itself. By the way, I often put my hand against the chest of this book and it mainly makes good music, a spiritually good music book or at least so I choose to deem it and I will not brook any argument. Not much further to read in it, and I continue to be sad at the prospect.

  32. 29 & 30

    Over the years, I have often found the ends of books – whether intentionally or not – provide a coda to the rest of the now finished symphony of words. The final two chapters, that I was somehow impelled to read together, provide the finest such coda in any book I have ever read. Full of poignancy and finally of inspiration and hope. Involving the kindness of Claudia – even some indication of kindness from eric! A small e with its pigtail. And Polo Mints and helium balloons. The ‘inspiration and hope’ I mention is either a dream sequence or it is not, but what ever it is, it certainly is an epiphany. And it neatly harks back to the significant ‘snow’ quotation of text I happened to photograph towards the start of this review. Co-vivid Dreams, like filters, can work in both directions of reality-flow. And this book over the weeks has served as a very important part of my lockdown experience. Separately and in preternatural synergy with other books. And I am confident that Horatio will work for everyone eventually, whatever their circumstances or their grief. As an aside, I have learnt a lot, too, in hindsight, from Jules Verne, and I can now today see different ways in how he inspired my own novel from a few years back, a novel recently revealed as somewhat co-vivid prophetic, if I can objectively say so myself. And I return to a quote from yesterday’s Horatio chapter: “Soon as we’ve got some sky.”
    And thanks to Tony who recommended this wonderful book to me at precisely the right time.

    end

    • You’re welcome! I’m just so glad you enjoyed it as much as I did.
      It’s only come to me lately that Horatio represents something we probably all feel, like the unasked for gift of a mysterious, incomplete (we think) universe, one that gets by perfectly well despite our lack of knowledge or understanding or curiosity about how it does. The book for me has become a missing thing itself, memories only (unless I choose to read it again), and yet also a thing I feel supported by.
      I have heard almost everyone who has read this wishes it hadn’t ended. I’m one of them.

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