I knew of Duncan B. Barlow for years before any of his work came into my purview: dude has a resume. He was a member of a bunch of influential Louisville bands, like Endpoint and By The Grace of God. I remember reading his punk rock exit interview in Punk Planet after he was sucker punched at a show by the singer of a hardcore band (look this up if you don’t know it already—shit is nuts). Barlow is also a writer. A few years back I got my hands on his novel The City, Awake and was impressed by the way he crafted bizarro time-looping noir pulp with a straightforward delivery.
A Dog Between Us is much more straightforward, but no less impactful. Throughout, the narrator is haunted by the demise and death of his father. Barlow is deft at depicting the way time slows in the brink of a loved one’s passing; the haze through which one walks daily to complete even the most mundane tasks.
This haze extends over his relationship. While A Dog Between Us isn’t as gleefully convention-bending as The City, Awake, it does share some tricks, including a broken chronology. As Barlow’s narrator Crag goes off into reverie, we’re brought along to the past, to the way that the slightest detail can springboard back someone who’s suffered a recent loss: to a week ago at the hospital, months ago, years. It’s tough to be aware of these shifts away from the present through the fog of grief, something that Barlow expertly depicts. As the story unfolds, we begin to learn that these depictions serve a narrative purpose greater than simply portraying what grieving is. Crag misses signs that are literally taped up for him to see, and must deal with the consequences of stacking losses.
A Dog Between Us wrenches beauty from tragedy. Add another one to Duncan B. Barlow’s resume. –Michael T. Fournier (Stalking Horse Press, stalkinghorsepress.com)