Sadly, just as we were celebrating the arrival of the summer issue, we lost a member of our team. On 15 June, Jennings the cocker spaniel died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 13. We miss him greatly. He was in on the earliest beginnings of Slightly Foxed, always beside us at meetings to remind us with a yawn or a discreet whine that things had gone on too long, always good-humoured and enthusiastic. He bore his increasing deafness and loss of sight without irritability, but it became obvious this year that he was failing. His brother Pugwash, by contrast, is in rude health and, after a decent period of mourning, is now enjoying his position as top and only dog. But he lacks Jennings’s subtlety.
Jennings’s death led us to thinking about literary dogs, and to the discovery of a charming little book called The Difficulty of Being a Dog, by the French novelist and essayist Roger Grenier. It became a bestseller when it appeared in France in 1998, was subsequently translated into English by Alice Kaplan and is available here from Chicago University Press.
Grenier uses canine characters both real and fictional and the attitudes to them of their owners and creators – Ulysses, Chekhov, Picasso and Napoleon’s Josephine to name but a few – to reflect in general on the bond between man and dog and what it tells us about ourselves. (André Gide, perhaps not surprisingly, owned the most neurotic dog imaginable.) Grenier works for the Paris publisher Gallimard, and he weaves some of these thoughts around atmospheric rambles through the streets of the city as he walks his own dog. Dog-lovers among you – and there must be a good number judging by your interest in Pugwash and Jennings, who have received good wishes and even presents – may know the book already. If not, it is well above the ordinary run.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has had some severe things to say about the Internet, but it does have its benign uses, and one of these has been to spread the word about Slightly Foxed. The world of literary web-logs or ‘blogs’ – sites set up by book-loving individuals to stimulate discussion of books and literary matters generally – is another recent discovery of ours, and it has given us some complimentary write-ups. Many of these disarmingly named sites (‘Bookslut’, ‘Tingle Alley’, ‘The Happy Booker’) originate in the US and, should you be interested, The Literary Saloon (www.complete-review.com/saloon) provides a long list of them. And, of course, the Slightly Foxed website also provides links to a number of relevant sites.
Well, it’s September and once again the prospect of Christmas shopping looms. So may we suggest you get ahead this year and order a subscription to Slightly Foxed for bookish friends and relatives? Their first gift issue will come artistically ribbon-wrapped (there’s no end to our talents here in the office), and judging by the letters we receive, it’s a present that never fails to please.
Meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy the current issue, and wish you, as ever, happy reading.