Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

February 04, 1996|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

MY DOG SKIP by Willie Morris (Random House: $15; 122 pp.). Sometimes it seems as though everything good is out of reach, in the past. It feels, reading some memoirs, as if we've really blown it: There used to be fine places to raise children who would grow up remembering the names and smells of their childhood trees, who would learn hard lessons in a cushion of community and security and loyalty to an environment. This book, Willie Morris' tribute to his childhood dog, Skip, is such a memoir: Mark Twain, Nehi sodas, baseball, until you think he must be kidding, this can't be real, this is Norman Rockwell and Jimmy Stewart. But damn if you don't dread the day when this dog dies, which you know must happen (especially if you've just read Jennifer Egan's stories). Because when this dog dies, all that will be over, childhood will be over, that kind of friendship will never happen again. In 1943, Morris is 9 years old, growing up in a small Delta town in Mississippi, when his parents give him a purebred English smooth-haired fox terrier that is 3 years old. They grow up together. Skip learns how to play football (although his first love will always be baseball), how to go down to the general store and get the newspaper and how to drive a car (with a little help). Skip's favorite food is bologna. Morris' friends have names like Muttonhead, Peewee, Bubba, Henjie and Ralph. Their South is a place of "long and heavy afternoons with nothing doing, with rich slow evenings when the crickets scratched their legs and the frogs made murmuring music," of "lambent music in the pecan trees in the breeze or the haunting nocturnal call of the Memphis-to-New Orleans train." Skip's enormous heart is proved many times over, not least when he takes pity on an orphaned kitten. When Skip gets sick from poison and pulls through or gets trapped all night in an abandoned refrigerator, you think it's the end, and when the end does come, Morris is left with these memories and this legacy: "Loyalty and love are the best things of all, and the most lasting, and that is what Old Skip taught me that I carry with me now."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|