Dogwalker
Arthur Bradford
(Knopf)

I do lots of things slowly. Like reading books, for one. It took me six months to read The Fountainhead. Maybe longer. But Arthur Bradford's story collection, Dogwalker, only took me about three hours. This isn't just because Dogwalker is 144 pages. No, it's because Dogwalker is 144 pages of cock-eyed fun. Dogs are a big part of that fun. So are far-out people and situations, living or otherwise.

Arthur's hero (is the same narrator in every story? I think so, but you be the judge) is no go-getter, but he is a peaceful sort. Laid back, without snootiness or jive. Kind of how you might picture the produce guy at your local, organic food co-op. Oh sure, every once in a while the hero gets mixed up in something not so admirable, like in Mollusks, where he tries to put the moves on his friend's wife during a domestic flap over a 10-pound slug; or something not so smart, like in Chainsaw Apple, where he wants to dazzle the citizenry by using a huge chainsaw to carve an apple clenched in his friend's teeth. Or something downright disturbing, like when he knocks up his girlfriend's dog in Dogs. Actually, Dogs isn't as disturbing as you'd think. It plays out like a fairy tale, as does Roslyn's Dog.

Mostly, though, Arthur's hero is cool because he's so accepting of life's curveballs and oddballs. All the stories, despite their twists and turns, turn out pretty much okay by him. Thus, Dogwalker reminds me of Candide. Well, sort of. Arthur's stories don't have Voltaire's corrosively indignant send-up of Leibnitzian optimism, or the fancy ports-of-call, but Dogwalker does leave you feeling that whatever is always alright, and that this hero lives his life in the best of all possible worlds.

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