An old loner and his misfit dog spend a year on the road in this acclaimed Irish novel of “singing prose [and] two unlikely Beckettian wanderers” (The Guardian, UK).
It is springtime, and an isolated man shunned by his village has forged a connection with the one-eyed dog he’s taken into his tightly shuttered life. But as their friendship grows, their small seaside community becomes suspicious. And when an accident is misconstrued as menace, this pair of outcasts must take to the road. As they travel from town to town, sleeping in the car and subsisting on canned spaghetti, the man confides in One Eye the strange and melancholy story of his life.
With its gorgeously poetic prose, Spill Simmer Falter Wither has garnered enthusiastic praise in its native Ireland, where the Irish Times pointed to Baume’s “astonishing power with language” and praised it as “a novel bursting with brio, braggadocio and bite.”
“Baume has a rare ability to look afresh at muted scenes and ordinary objects… the book hums with its own distinctiveness.”—The Guardian, UK
A solitary misfit opens up to his one-eyed dog in this debut novel. Ray describes himself as old (he's 57), shabbily dressed, and sketchily bearded, pitching and clomping when he walks. He first sees the dog in an animal shelter advertisement: a grisly photo of a mangled canine face. The kennel keeper says the dog attacks other dogs; its scars suggest it was used for badger hunting. Ray is familiar with abuse: his father, understanding Ray is "not right-minded," raised him in confined isolation. Ray reads, drives, and knows he's not a regular person. Following his father's death, he remains in his father's house alone until he adopts the dog he calls One Eye. When One Eye attacks another dog, incurring the owner's wrath, Ray takes One Eye on the road, traveling from one Irish village to another, sleeping in the car. By the time they return home, they have spent a year together, and their friendship is fixed. Baume's storytelling can be indirect. She never mentions Ray's name, only that he's named for a sunbeam or a sand shark. Nor does she specify Ray's impairment. As a narrator, he shows observation skills, appreciation for landscape, and awareness of fear and sadness. For One Eye, he's full of empathy. Baume's debut is notable for its rhythmic language, sensory imagery (especially visuals and smells), and second-person narrative directed at an animal. She is brutal detailing brutality, lyrical contemplating land and sea, and at her best evoking the connection between man and dog.
I wish there had been a happier ending…