Tara’s Dog Star stories make me think of Morrissey crooning: I am human and I need to belong just like everyone else does – especially “Say Bridgitte Please.” It involves a high school girl misidentifying her natural need to connect as boredom. This takes her on a path she expects will remedy the situation (even if just temporarily). Regrettably it doesn’t work out that way – at least not in the spiritual manner she is hoping for.
When I read the stories in Tara Masih’s Where the Dog Star Never Glows, I can’t help myself from burdening them with expectations of some Transcendentalist truism. It’s the same with Kafka. I can’t read a Kafka story without applying some Existentialist truism. It is unfair of me in both cases – doing so diminishes the honesty of the text. However, in both cases the allegorical potential of the stories are too tempting to pass up.
In my favorite story, “Champagne Waters” a listless wife tries to evade the banality of her marriage. The husband’s ignorance (perhaps acceptance) of her boredom frustrates her. She becomes aloof and rebukes his attempts at tenderness. He is hurt but remains steadfast in his belief in their relationship – in their “way of life.”
It is the fragility of a pregnant seahorse during the wake of a storm, and the sight of her husband’s hunched back in the rain that fires a synapse in her brain – awakens in her an instinctual urge. It drives her to swim the choppy waters to him – an endeavor she was not initially interested in.
In nature, it is the male seahorse that incubates the eggs and nourishes the offspring – not the female (as with most other species). In nature, it is her husband’s “consistency” that perpetuates their relationship. Tara (as the omniscient narrator) hints that “love” might be the inspiration here but I feel the word is too riddled with assumptions in this day and age. I prefer to think of it as something more organic and primordial – something innate in our design – the tension between how we expect things are supposed to be and how things really are – human nature within the natural world.
The stories in Dog Star evoke Transcendentalist principles like faith in the “gift of intuition” and a “Divine Soul which also inspires all.” “Champagne Waters,” is an allegorical statement about intuition in conflict with the tethers of human expectations. In “Say Bridgitte Please,” the statement is of spirituality encased in very grounded flesh. And while I like the title story, I don’t feel it is as strong as “Champagne Waters,” or “Say Bridgitte Please.” However, I can see where “Dog Star” is more likely to conjure up images of nature and spirituality than words “Champagne” or “Bridgitte.”