You can learn everything you need to know about the intended tone of this novel from its title, which is based on a joke – ‘the one about the dyslexic atheist’. Its premise is that God is actually a teenage boy called Bob, who acts like a typical teenage boy. What he did to Lot’s wife was essentially his idea of banter. This is used to explain all that is weird, cruel and incomprehensible about life on earth. All that is orderly and miraculous is put down to Bob’s long-suffering bureaucrat of an assistant, Mr. B.
However, the humour of this novel didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s funnier if you’re Christian, or maybe it’s because a lot of the humour is supposed to be based on the Almighty’s whining, and the thing is, I just don’t find adolescent whining fun or funny. I find it just tragic, really.
The main plot involves Bob becoming smitten with a young woman called Lucy and the chaos that ensues. This sort of thing happening is used to explain women’s mystical experiences throughout the centuries and is even tied to the myth of Leda and the swan. However, there are lots of plot threads, including one involving Bob’s hard-drinking, gambling mother and an alien life-form called Eck. These threads come together satisfyingly at the end but never truly gel during. I think I could have done with more time for each one to develop really.
And development is somewhat lacking in this novel. No-one really grows as a person. There is a point where you think that maybe Bob is learning – when he finally faces his responsibilities and struggles to cope – but by the end, he’s back to his normal self-obsessed self.
But, the novel comes alive, as in Meg Rosoff’s other novels, at such moments, when sincerely describing emotional realities – the heady emotions of young love, or God’s inability to cope when the true knowledge of his responsibilities crashes in on him.
All this is not to say that I don’t reckon much to Rosoff as a satirist: her second novel, ‘Just In Case’ satirises well humanity’s sometimes delusional belief in their own significance and agency. All I can call this novel really is a nice bit of well-written fluff – not my cup of tea, but good if you want something fun, but not deep. The best point of comparison I can come up with is ‘All My Friends Are Superheroes’ by Andrew Kaufman, as both use a very simple style and are based upon a single humorous premise, but, whereas Kaufman’s prose is evocative of hidden depths of humour and meaning, despite Rosoff’s attempt at mocking ‘life, the universe and everything’, ‘There Is No Dog’ is much more shallow. 3 days ago