Review: Victimized at Every Turn, Carry the Dog by Stephanie Gangi
Note: Stéphanie Gangi will talk about her new novel Carry the dog in conversation with Chicago author Christie Tate at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 3, at a free virtual event via Barbara’s Bookstore, held on Crowdcast.
Carry the dog
By Stéphanie Gangi
that of Stéphanie Gangi Carry the dog is an overworked old-school pot, chock full of modern hot button issues.
It’s a bit like Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 novel The Valley of the Dolls, which Bea Segar, the central character and narrator of Gangi’s book, reads during the summer when she is 11 and starts having her period.
It’s also the summer when her mother Miri Marx takes a famous photo of Bea and her twin brothers, Ansel and Henry, three years older, all naked inside a steamy station wagon, 1967 car, at least a traumatic event for the girl. Although the photo is mentioned several times throughout the novel, all the details are revealed towards the end.
A lot of Carry the dog– the title refers to another famous photo of Miri Marx – has to do with a trauma, unearthed or discovered or recognized by Bea, a 59-year-old Manhattanite who is not very comfortable with herself.
The valley of the dolls also had a lot of trauma. They were also celebrities, just like Carry the dog.
Bea herself is a minor celebrity in a way she has sought to avoid throughout her life. She and her brothers, when they were children, were the subject of a series of photographs infamously and scandalously known as the Marx Nudes. This series, the 1967 car photo in particular, led to a pornography investigation by the New York State Attorney General and the removal of Miri’s three children for some time.
The case gave Miri, the younger sister of the famous painter Stanley Marx, notoriety across the country until in 1969 she committed suicide, four months after her teenage son Ansel died in a fire. Since then, his memory and his work have been revered by a certain circle of art photography enthusiasts.
Indeed, Bea is harassed, on the one hand, by the Museum of Modern Art and, on the other hand, by a Hollywood producer to give the green light to a major project on her mother – a major exhibition at the museum, a biopic. flashy from the producer.
Everyone wants not only Bea’s permission to move forward, but also access to a storage locker where all of Miri’s work and records have been kept. It’s the locker and gear inside, room by room, that reveals to Bea and the reader the extent of the trauma she and her dysfunctional family have gone through and continue to experience.
After Miri’s suicide, Henry went to college and then to a life of his own under another name. But, Bea, while avoiding relations with Marx, gained another celebrity by marrying, at the age of 17, Gary Going, a rock star and guitar hero of the group Chalk Outline – and, after their divorce, in l ‘marrying again years later. She wrote what was probably her biggest hit, “I, Alive,” but was never credited.
Controversy and sensation
The question of whether the Marx Nudes are art where pornography runs through Gangi’s novel. But, as a boiler demands, there are also many other controversial issues, sensational activities, and shocking events.
For example, Bea and Gary are aging baby boomers. He is on tour again until he is repeatedly hit by his body. She faces the threat of breast cancer and keeps in touch with her father Albert, 91, by phone.
Hannah, Albert’s 22-year-old daughter from a late marriage, came to New York to stay with Bea, her half-sister over twice her age, and pursue a musical career as Echo. They get closer, but then, wham, Bea is devastated when the young woman betrays her. Or so it seems.
Carry the dog features an elderly sex scene and a full range of non-traditional sexual identities: a lesbian couple, two male same-sex marriages, and two bisexual people. There are references to more than one incident of incest as well as a powerful man preying on teenage twins.
And, also, something that was murder, or close to murder.
That’s a lot of stories to wear for any character, and, in fact, until the very, very end of the novel, it’s a story that happens to Bea.
It’s a story that shows how, seemingly at every turn of her life, Bea has been victimized – by her mom, dad, brothers, rock star husband and, now, by her age.
And, it must be said, a victim of his own fuzzy approach to his life.
Book clubs that read Carry the dog are likely to discuss the extent to which all of the trauma Bea has faced are responsible for her fluttering with the flow, her lack of purpose.
Her status as a victim, in any case, prevented me from spending a lot of time with her.
She talks about “my adulthood, as it is”. She complains of “premature invisibility”. She despairs about the “many failed me that I have been”. Someone says she was a groupie when she met Gary, and she had never thought of it before. She explains: “I dress in layers from head to toe, I like winter clothes better, I cover myself as much as I can.” At a very bad time she said to the reader, “I am miserable and ready to wallow, happy to wallow. A few pages later, she describes herself as “an indecisive jacket.”
For me, Gangi’s novel had too much sensational stuff packed into 276 pages – enough trauma, sexual and otherwise, for several books – and a central character who, throughout Carry the dog, was hopelessly vague and insecure.
But then, what do I know? The valley of the dolls sold over 31 million copies and was one of the 20 best-selling books of the 20th century.
Maybe Gangi and his editor are a lot smarter than me.
Carry the dog is available at most bookstores and through the publisher’s site.