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Carry the Dog
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Bea Seger has spent a lifetime running from her childhood. The daughter of a famous photographer, she and her brothers were the subjects of an explosive series of images in the 1960s known as the Marx Nudes. Disturbing and provocative, the photographs shadowed the family long past the public outcry and media attention. Now, decades later, both the Museum of Modern Art and Hollywood have come calling, eager to cash in on Bea’s mother’s notoriety. Twice divorced from but still entangled with aging rock star Gary Going, Bea lives in Manhattan with her borrowed dog, Dory, and sort-of sister, Echo. After years of avoiding her past, Bea must make a choice: let the world in—and be compensated for the trauma of her childhood—or leave it all locked away in a storage unit forever.
Carry the Dog sweeps readers into Bea’s world as the little girl in the photographs and the woman in the mirror meet at the blurry intersection of memory and truth, vulnerability and resilience.
I'm in the dark, I can't see.
The glow of electronics in the bedroom messes with my melatonin so I've shut down the computer, unplugged the printer, there's no phone or tablet charging nearby, no LED clock numbers. It must be two or three a.m., a winter night. City noise outside is sporadic, but bus brakes and sirens still shriek, and random humans and cats do too, and dogs bark, and the traffic on the highway rumbles, tidal. Under everything is the constant night hum peculiar to Manhattan. It sounds like the whir of the Vornado standing fans in the house where I grew up.
I once read that if you can't sleep, don't force your eyes closed, keep them open. To tire them out. So I search the dark for what I know is there—armoire, desk, big chair, Dory the dog—but can't see. I feel-think around the rims and detect a slight burn and heaviness, like my eyes want to close so I close them.
Here we go. My brain is like a tourist clicking through souvenir scenes on an old View-Master with faded slides and old-fashioned darkroom prints. Click, a photograph emerges doubled behind each eyelid. Click, the two merge into one. A boy and a girl nap together. Nine and six, brother and sister, it's in the faces and the geometry of the limbs. The sheet's folds and wrinkles fit and draw the eye. Our shoulders are bare. My brother is on his back, arms wide, one leg flung off the side of the bed. His face is in shadow, obscured, but the way his curls cling to his neck, it is hot despite the fan. Summer. I am on my side turned away from him but close in the big bed, and my hands are held together under my cheek, like praying. My hair obscures my face too, except for my mouth, a slack bow. My brother's mouth is a slack bow, too.
My mother took the photograph. She shot us while we slept, and Nap is the only candid included in the series that came to be known in the newspapers as the Marx Nudes.
Don't move. Stay still.
Miri shot Nap with a Leica, but for the staged photo shoots she used an old-fashioned large-format view camera because she wanted to make big pictures. That camera was cumbersome outdoors, hard to move once set up, completely manual and labor-intensive. She would pose us, disappear under a canvas hood, managing exposure and composition, and wait for the light. We three—Ansel, Henry and I—would forget Miri was shooting and we'd wrestle and bicker or outright fight while she worked.
The hours we spent in the woods as subjects of our mother's work were our chores, and we got an allowance which she called "pocket money." I tell myself I was just a kid, that I didn't know any better. I obeyed, I complied, I followed along with Ansel and Henry although I hated chores. Our bodies were arranged by my mother, shot, developed, printed, and hung on gallery walls by my mother. If we resisted, Miri used her arsenal to get us back up into the woods: our competitive natures, her artistic calling, and, of course, the threat of withholding the pocket money. If one of us complained (me), slammed a door (Ansel), disappeared at the appointed hour (Henry), our avoidance tactics would earn us days of silent treatment, no eye contact, and messages relayed through whoever had been most cooperative or our father, Albert.
Dory dream-growls and deep-breathes and dog-paddles in her sleep, curled in the curve between my ass and my thighs. I punch the pillows. I try another insomnia cure, a little movie of the mind, starring me. I am in the cast-off T-shirt and jeans of my brothers, I am barefoot with my black hair in a braid, I am sweeping each room of the Grand View house. I sweep, sweep my way to the darkroom at the back, and there is Miri in a denim apron with leather ties, photos pinned to a line above her head. Her hair falls, hiding her face. She's smoking and stirring prints in development trays. She uses tongs, grips an edge, pulls me out, dripping. She frowns. I have not developed to her satisfaction. I am not who she saw through her lens.
Miriam Marx is long dead, and yet she's inside me, where she has been my whole life, from before my life, from when I was cells inside her trying to gang up and become a person. She seeped in, with her low murmur and cigarette smoke and darkroom chemicals. She's dead and yet when I catch a whiff of sour wine in last night's glass, or the stubbed butts from my ashtray on the fire escape, it's like smelling salts. She's revived. Just the thought of green beans makes me gag, remembering how she would dump them from a can into a pot and heat them in their tinged water to show Albert she'd put something green on our plates. I would push them around with my fork, try to relax my throat, try to swallow to keep peace at the dinner table. Miri sat back with her wine, her cigarette, the squint that meant she was killing time until she could retreat to the darkroom with the day's film.
On a night like tonight I think, Where was Albert?
I grope the bedside table for my notebook, my pen. I can't see but I scrawl Albert with a question mark across the page, a note for the memoir I'm trying to write. The title is Exposed. Or Exposure. I can't decide. It's a work in progress, glacial progress. My idea is to look back from the brink of sixty and tell my story. The brink of sixty, it's rough terrain for anybody, time to take stock of your life even if you didn't have Miriam Marx as a mother.
I was born Berenice Marx-Seger. We were hyphenated before it was common but I dropped Marx a long time ago. I go by Bea, a nickname my mother hated. My brothers and I were each named for a photographer Miri idolized: Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Miri called Henri "Ahn-ree," with a Parisian spin. She teased Ansel that he was lucky, she wanted to name him Weegee but Albert put his foot down for once. Albert is still alive, parked and idling at the Sandy Edge assisted living facility in Delray Beach, Florida. Ansel is dead. I haven't spoken with Henri—he's Henry to me, the regular way—in decades. So much has kept us apart.
Every few years there's an article about my mother and then a rapid round of attention to Miriam Marx and her work. Culture vultures pick through everything old, everything "vintage," especially art, especially controversial. People with a dark interest in naked kids explore my mother's work from the anonymity of their devices. The backstory increases the buzz. I ignore the calls and the emails and the notifications and hide out until it all passes, but recently high culture, in the person of the associate curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, has found me.
Violet Yeun has been trying to contact me for months. Ms. Marx, on behalf of the Museum of Modern Art . . . Ms. Marx, as Associate Curator of the Photography Department of the Museum of Modern Art . . . Ms. Marx, if I may request an hour of your time . . . She is the foremost authority on my mother, besides me. She thinks my mother was a feminist visionary. She thinks the Marx Nudes represented a radical departure from the traditional family values of that era. She thinks Miri's photographs showed that childhood is dark, innocence is a myth, motherhood is a trap, and art—Art—will set you free. Dr. Yeun wants to restore my mother's reputation.
I get it, I do. And yet. That's me in the photographs, with my brothers, posed by our mother. Nude seems different than naked, nude means on display. A generation after Miri, Sally Mann got famous for photographs she took of her children, and there was a rush to compare us. At some point I got brave and read everything and zoomed in and the thing is, her kids look like themselves, except naked. We don't. We're on display. We're nude.
I wonder what Henry would say.
The black room has blurred to dark gray. It must be predawn—four-thirty? Five? I can almost see the armoire, the desk, the books, shapes that loom. I can feel Dory breathing and I pace my breath to hers, the rise and fall, and that helps me sleep, almost. In old movies, magical spiritual types—Aborigines or Native Americans or the Amish—recoiled from cameras. They worried the camera would steal their souls, that the image would be cursed and the person in the photograph would suffer. From my own experience, the magical movie types had a point. I do feel like part of my soul was stolen by my mother's camera. I do feel cursed.
Also, I'm waiting for some test results.
I go by Seger but inside, I am still part Marx. I can't help it—I blister with something like pride when I read about my mother, the groundbreaking female photographer. I despised chores, but Miri stood me on a box and helped me fit my head under her canvas hood. She told me what to look for through the lens. She taught me how to look wide and change my perspective to see close. She showed me that far away is one place and near is another, even though they are both aspects of the same landscape. How the light will tell you what to see, if you wait. How if you wait, the right light will light the dark.
My brain hurts like a warehouse. I've always loved that Bowie lyric. There's a storage unit north of the city with all of Miriam Marx's work. I've never been there. I imagine it's packed to the rafters with her cameras, equipment, undeveloped negatives, original prints, all the versions, rejected work, slides, videos, journals. All the images of me and my brothers. The Marx Nudes. I assume. I don't know.
It's all a great debate between Gary and me.
Gary is my ex-husband. Twice. We've been together in various configurations since I was seventeen years old. He's invited me to dinner tonight at Balthazar, and a money talk will surely be on the menu. He believes there are Miriam Marx licensing opportunities, maybe tastefully rendered cards and little notebooks, postcards and calendars, to generate income I could certainly use. Gary sent me a link recently where you could buy T-shirts printed with Diane Arbus holding her Rolleiflex, fifty dollars apiece.
"Bean," he is fond of saying, repeatedly, "it comes down to retirement. You have to leverage the past to secure the future." We have a complicated financial history built on calcified guilt and resentments, traversed by crumbling bridge loans and a trickling cash flow, all muddied by who earned what and who squandered it during our years together. Gary helped me buy my apartment and Gary's guy pays the mortgage every month, what Gary and the accountant call "Bea's subsidy." Naturally he has a vested interest in seeing me financially secure. I have dwindling savings, a sad IRA, a few resilient stocks from the olden days, gifted to us kids by Albert when we were little: a tractor manufacturer, American Airlines, some Coca-Cola. I make a little freelance money, enough to subsidize the subsidy, from interviews I conduct with corporate executives, mostly men. I ask question after question and record them droning on, saying the same thing: revenue, shareholders, markets, and projections. I transcribe their words and turn them into articles or biographies or content for annual reports or websites. Nobody's looking to be original, they stick to a script, but I do try to listen for one thing I can use to make these guys interesting. It makes me feel like I am a writer, although not the way I imagined it. The truth is, all I ever did was imagine being a writer. The next step was never clear to me.
Anyway, at fifty-nine, with the postmenopausal attention span of, well, a fifty-nine-year-old woman, it takes me twice as long to transcribe the corporate guys as it used to. Lately my mind wanders as soon as the men start talking in my earbuds. I stab and swipe at my smartphone to start over, and then over again. I try to concentrate and then I really can't concentrate. Writing the memoir, that struggle, started with me trying to remember dates, figure out how old I was when certain things happened. Not having family means there is no one to ask, no one to set you straight. I talk to Albert down at Sandy Edge once a month, and I have a list of questions to help with my project, but he's either too spaced out or I lose my nerve.
I have to get ready for dinner. I have to look good. Gary might bring a date, someone young. He's pushing seventy and craves the reflected shine of youth, which he thinks buys him a decade off his own age. He's a man, he may be right. He's showed up with young women in the past, as if I'm the amicable ex-wife and we're a cool, evolved divorced couple. I don't feel that way, but I know how he thinks. He can get away with it, a little tax on "the subsidy," a little uptick on the interest rate.
I need bright light so I'm up on a stepladder to change one of three awkwardly situated, very delicate light bulbs in the fixture above the bathroom sink. I can't remember the last time I climbed a stepladder without fearing for my life. My fingers are fat from Thai at lunch, my glasses are in the other room, my arms ache from reaching, and I have a cramp in abdomen muscles I don't have.
"Echo! I need help! In the bathroom!"
Echo lives here now. A couple of months back, I got an email from her telling me she was moving to the city, wondering if I could help her find a job waiting tables. On impulse I invited her to stay in the second bedroom until she sorts herself out. She's my father's stepdaughter. I mean daughter. He adopted her. She was born Hannah but rechristened herself when she left Florida. She's trying Echo on. I say, Go for it, that's what New York is for. She scours "Roommate Wanted" on Craigslist for a hipper living arrangement, downtown or Brooklyn, but I offer meals, the complete cable package, and a closet full of clothes she considers vintage. I like the company. She helps with Dory. Dory loves Echo.
I hear her laugh from her room. "Damn, Bea! I didn't sign up for senior bathroom assistance." She comes and offers me an arm and eases me down and goes up and gets the job done. "Maybe it's time for a Life Alert necklace?"
"Hilarious. You are on Dory duty. I'm going out."
"With your rock star?"
"He's not my rock star, not anymore. He's just my old ex. Walk the dog!"
Gary is a rock star. An actual rock star. He's Gary Going. He was never a rock god, never hit the stratosphere, but he's in a substratosphere, for sure—Lou Reed level, still playing out. He can walk the city without being harassed like a Mick or a Sir Paul, but there are a lot of guys who fell in love with Gary's band Chalk Outline in the seventies. He was their guitar hero, with a voice he worked from croon to yelp.
Gary knows about leveraging the past. Old rock and roll is good business. He's always hustling with the reunion tours, the remastered this, the reissued that. Now and then he sits in when a producer wants to add an artsy-punk cred to an up-and-comer in the studio. He's had some throat problems, nodules, and when he's onstage they cover his old-man croak with backup singers. His fingers are gnarled with arthritis, they hurt him, so he plays what amounts to convincing air guitar while a younger band member does the shredding. Young men discover him anew all the time because of their dads, their granddads. He gets adulation but he needs more than that. He needs the girls and the money too, even though he's a septuagenarian. It's all part of the rock-and-roll job description. Except his stash these days includes statins for the cholesterol, insulin for his sugar, Zoloft for impending doom, the purple pill for the GERD, and the blue one for the exhausted penis. He was on an oxy binge a couple of years ago when he had his hip replaced but was taking it more to blunt the shame of using a cane than for the pain.
I check my phone. I have missed call notifications from two old-school 212 numbers. One is Dr. Keswani. The other is from MoMA. I ignore both. There's a text from Gary: See you at. He doesn't text properly. It drives me crazy. He rants about texting, that it's the final nail in the coffin of our soul-dead society. I've pointed out that he made a career screaming into a microphone about our soul-dead society but he waves me off. Texting is an ordeal for him. He has to locate his glasses, manage the tiny touchpad, and stop taking autocorrect so personally. It's a lot at his age.
Dory snores at the foot of my bed, which I recently vacated. Of course I napped. I don't sleep well and I need to look rested for Balthazar. I've got temporary wrinkles from the pillowcase. I keep meaning to buy satin. The wrinkles take longer to recede every month. I wash with the anti-everything cleanser, apply pro-everything serum, pat, pat, pat and wait for my face to un-crevice. One good thing about being an older woman is you can be vain and not hide it anymore. People find it amusing. My black hair is still magnificent, if I do say so myself. It's thick and threaded with silver and I have a white streak at my widow's peak—pretty dramatic. I don't do much, just fluff it up, encourage the wild. I like to look like I have bed hair, something men find sexy. Found sexy. My mother had hair like mine; I mean, I have hair like hers. I resemble her, same mane, same size, same bone structure. I think I look how she would have looked if she had lived. Which she didn't.
I press my fingers where frown lines would be. Those I take care of. I started with Botox years ago, almost by accident, before it was a grooming essential. I was writing luncheon speeches for a makeup mogul, and she offered to pay me in botulism injections to eradicate the parallel lines between my eyes, the "elevens," which gave me a look of being mildly angry all the time. I am mildly angry all the time, but I don't need everyone to see it coming. I was panicked when she stuck me eight times in the forehead. I went home and waited to die. But I was fine and the lines were gone and now I'm a regular.
I do my eyebrows. I tap nude shadow across the lids with a fingertip. I can't drag a brush across them; they would crepe. Mascara, of course—it's the only thing I haven't had to change from when I was young: strokes and strokes of black mascara, very Chrissie Hynde. A swirl of blush, and Rouge Dior 999 on my lips.
I am not Gary's first love. There was an Italian babysitter, Angela; this was up in the Bronx. He was a freshman in high school. She was experienced. He searched for her on Facebook a few years ago and she looked pretty good for an old lady, which Gary took as confirmation of his own enduring sex appeal.
I'm not even his big love. That was his first wife, Margaux, child of an English acting dynasty crossed with musty-money royalty. Margaux flew around the globe with her flock of British birds chasing rock stars, embarrassing her family. Chalk Outline was the opening act for the Rolling Stones for one infamous tour, '65 or '66, and that's where Gary and Margaux met, backstage at the Albert Hall. Eventually she fell off her platforms, hit her head on a curb outside a club, and tabloid photos show them in lurid black and white, with black blood dripping onto white mink, and Gary, a cigarette dangling from his lips, bleary, dragging her up from the gutter. Her family stepped in; a divorce materialized. Sometimes I peruse the internet and Margaux is in all the best swinging sixties pictures, outside Annabel's in a long coat over a short skirt, high white boots, with porcelain skin, crosswise teeth, giant eyes fringed by black lashes that meet the edges of her long blond bangs.
Margaux was with Gary at the moment he was poised to launch, before he knew he'd never make it Mick big. She was his muse when everything was possible. Naturally he mythologizes that time, that girl. When they met, he was only twenty or so, and he'd recently been just Gary Goldbaum from the Bronx. I was still a child, posing with my brothers for Miri.
I'm not his first love or the big one, but I do know how to wait him out. I give my hair a final fluff. I see behind myself in the mirror, where Carry the Dog hangs on the wall. It's an early Miriam Marx photograph, from before she met Albert. If it weren't my mother's photograph, I would love it unreservedly. A girl and boy, sister and brother, carry a long dog. Each holds an end. They march through what looks like a rush-hour crowd in Times Square. The children wear limp T-shirts, baggy dungarees and no shoes. The girl is smaller but she leads, chin like a prow, tight-lipped with determination. They look as though they stepped out of a Walker Evans photograph from the thirties. They are touched by the sun in a way that no other people in the photograph are. Miri caught the light, and the children, precisely.
Carry the Dog was featured in the Speaking of Pictures section of Life magazine when Miri was just eighteen years old, a girl. Family legend has it that it was chosen by Margaret Bourke-White herself. I've seen Echo linger and study it. I imagine a future conversation with her where I am magnanimous, telling her the photograph is a gift, sister to sister, to celebrate some accomplishment of hers. Or maybe I will keep it. I do love that photograph, so I don't know.
"What happened to your hair?"
"Is that how you say hello? Come meet Malcolm Bix. Malcolm, Berenice Marx-Seger."
Gary parades all my names. His hair is newly shoe-polish black. He's wearing a too-tight black leather jacket that matches the hair, and both work against his senior skin. He looks like a deflated Goth. I don't pull my skeptical eyebrows down fast enough, which Gary catches, and his upper lip retreats in embarrassment. He presents me to a standing, smiling man who is extending his hand. A good-looking man. The rose-gold lighting in Balthazar is advantageous and it sets off the man's tan, the silver bristle along his jaw and chin, and makes his steel blue eyes and his steel gray hair gleam.
"Ms. Marx. Malcolm Bix. Happy to meet you."
Bix guides me to my chair as waiters pour water and shake napkins onto laps and Gary pours pink bubbles into my glass and I get my reading glasses tangled up with my necklaces. I say, "Not Marx. Just Seger."
"Just Seger." I work to free my glasses.
"Berenice dropped the Marx years ago. For privacy reasons."
He never calls me that. "What's with the 'Berenice'? What's going on?"
Gary laughs his fake laugh, as if I'm adorable when confused.
Bix says, "Berenice, as in Abbott, right? The New York photographer?"
Anybody with Wikipedia access would know that. I curve my mouth into a polite smile. "I don't go by Berenice either." I slice a look into Gary and use the wife voice that is especially tuned to his frequency. "Can you tell me what's going on? What's up?"
Gary busies himself with his water. Bix puts a hand on my shoulder. He looks at me from under his brow. "Can I call you Bea? Does that work?"
"I'm sorry, who are you again?" I turn to Gary. "Who is he?"
Gary mumbles, "Why don't we let Bix explain himself?"
I am unaccustomed to Gary taking a back seat. The atmosphere is deionized of Gary, who looks even sillier in his aging rocker garb next to Bix. Bix is around fifty, a very good age for a man. He looks like the lumberjack-gentleman who appears on all my devices, his stock photo baiting me to click on senior dating sites, except without the plaid flannel shirt. I'm on guard but I want to stroke his sweater, a color between gray and lavender. I can't decide if his hair is an untended mess or artfully arrayed to look like one. There is man scent on my hand from when I shook his. I can't help myself, I raise it to my nose as if I'm doing a quick rub of an itch. Spicy forest, amber below and lime above, distant, alluring. My bottom buzzes a bit. I sniff and rub to inhale Bix again.
"Do you have allergies?" Before I have a chance to answer him, Bix says to a waiter, "Would you mind removing these?" and hands off the vase of flowers from the center of the table. It's both presumptuous and refreshingly man-of-action. Gary would not in a million years think to have the centerpiece exiled for my greater comfort.
"Here, Bea." Bix hands me an oxford blue cotton handkerchief with a monogram and the same waft of woodsy tang. "Keep that."
"What's going on? Am I about to be deposed or something?" I'm funnier now that I'm of a certain age. I'm not allowed to flirt overtly anymore—that reads desperate—but a smart mouth on an older woman, that's sitcom approved. Gary forces another laugh.
"Bea, first, I want to tell you how honored I am to meet you."
Honored? He is trying to butter me up. This is not the first time I've been the object of someone's questionable interest in the little girl in the photographs. Gary knows I get nervous around new people. I'm always leery. I'm leery now. I feel cornered. Bix is smooth, with an open face, a sincere tone, direct eye contact, very L.A.
I take tiny sips of the effervescent rosé. Gary says, "Bea, Bix is a producer. From the coast. We worked together on our little movie. Opening Act. Which did pretty well. You remember."
Gary is performing for Bix and is expecting me to perform with him. "Yes, Gary, I remember. I know Opening Act. If you remember, my song is in your little movie."
I tried to be a lyricist after Gary and I met. I wrote songs with his encouragement and the promise of his connections. One of my songs charted impressively. That was "I, Alive," and that's when our money conflicts began. I was paid a flat fee for my work, having relied completely on Gary's advice, Gary's lawyer and Gary's accountant. There was no contract, no paperwork. We had a falling out over "I, Alive
“A witty, startlingly astute dispatch from the societal graveyard of middle-aged women.”
“I can’t remember the last time I was as completely bewitched by a fictional character as I was by Bea Seger in Stephanie Gangi’s Carry The Dog. What a treat to view life through the eyes of this funny, smart, gutsy woman, who has suffered its outrageous slings and arrows, and just keeps coming back for more.”
—Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls and Chances Are . . .
“Stephanie Gangi’s Carry the Dog is powered by insight and true wit as it explores families and their aftershocks, as well as art, regret, and the state of being an older, desiring female in a world that too often looks away. I enjoyed it immensely.”
—Meg Wolitzer, New York Times bestselling author of The Female Persuasion
“Carry the Dog is a fantastic novel about art, fame, aging and the unfathomable mystery of family. Stephanie Gangi writes with a rare mix of grace and urgency.”
—Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins and The Cold Millions
"There was something so authentic about this novel, and the awkward, earnest grace of the bright light at its center, Bea. It's a book about resilience, and the imperative of defining yourself to yourself, and a riveting reminder that nothing in this life is ever too late. I loved it."
—Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes
“Carry the Dog . . . takes up critiques of visual culture within a very personal context: a novel about aging and coming to terms with childhood trauma. By placing these conundrums inside the body of a 60-year-old woman experiencing a long-delayed coming of age, she speaks to the many women...who are going through this transition. It’s a deeply ironic moment . . . to perceive themselves, finally, as themselves, even as they are becoming invisible to the world that has fetishized them . . . When such a change is touched on in books or film, too often it’s a source of tragedy, even madness. Gangi, in refreshing contrast, argues that invisibility is freeing.”
—Los Angeles Times
"Prickly but vulnerable, Bea is an irresistible character, and Gangi’s novel is less a chronicle of growing up in the shadow of an artist parent as it is a late-in-life coming-of-age story. Fans of Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (2017) will find as much to love in this novel as those of Myla Goldberg’s Feast Your Eyes (2019) and Dawnie Walton’s The Final Revival of Opal Nev (2021)."
—Booklist, starred review
“Magnificent . . . A dark, utterly convincing exploration of family trauma and individual survival . . . It’s easy to forget that Carry the Dog is fiction; it feels deeply real, like a true memoir from a slightly alternate world just beyond our reach.”
—New York Journal of Books
“An elegiac absorbing novel . . . artful . . . the reflective mood and intense narration recreate the artistic world of a bygone era.”
“With rambunctious and moving Carry the Dog, Stephanie Gangi shows us how uncovering the truth to our past can push us to live better lives in the present . . . She narrates all this with a light tone that is often humorous and, frankly, very entertaining; her characters are ruthless and utterly relatable every step of the way . . . Bea deals with the aging process with wit, intelligence, humor, and a feistiness that never grows old.”
—The Brooklyn Rail
“A keenly observed and devastating novel. Though Bea’s is a voice that, at times, made me laugh with recognition, her story is so dark and compelling that I woke before dawn to finish reading.”
—Polly Samson, author of A Theater for Dreamers
“A smart, sophisticated, lively read.”
“A fun and touching novel . . . A story about change and what it looks like to embrace or reject its attendant discomforts.”
—Chicago Review of Books
“Funny and humane . . . Gangi’s heroine, Bea Seger, is warm and complex, engaging and brave and messed up, but the book is deceptively likable; it also takes on big subjects: aging and sexuality, agency and consent, and who gets to say what, exactly, gets to happen in the name of art.”
“[Bea is] one of my favorite protagonists of the year, an indefatigable older woman facing crises with great doses of wit, determination, and vulnerability.”
“Memorable . . . Most endearing is the character of Bea, who deals with the physical, psychological, economic, and romantic challenges of aging with humor and attitude.”
“Heartbreaking and gripping . . . brings a great amount of insight into the life of a child brought up as a muse to her mother’s art.”
—Campus Circle(Best Books of 2021)
“Remarkable . . . brims with wit, warmth, and compassion.”
—My Prime Time News (Denver, Colorado)
- On Sale
- Nov 1, 2022
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Algonquin Books