Reading Dogwalker, a bizarre collection of stories by Arthur Bradford is well worth the short time it takes to transform the mundane into the weirdness we so crave for amusement. All of the stories contained within revolve around Bradford’s attempts in finding some solace from one’s self-imposed boredom and stagnation through stray canines and equally stray roommates. If it means anything, this collection takes place throughout Texas; apparently, there is a lot of weird down there.
Bradford writes with childlike simplicity and whimsy, though his plots border on the uber-strange and even the horrific. Cat-faced carnies, fruit sculpting with chainsaws, blind friends who own cars, and the glamour of giant slugs are just some of the musings Bradford could expound on in greater detail; stories I’d happily delve into when in need of a fresh bizarro-cleanse. Yet he tends to focus on dogs and roommates, and the fleeting affection he has for both. By whatever circumstance, both tend to be maimed, mutated or psychologically unhinged, yet that doesn’t stop him from adopting each for a brief laugh to pass the time.
What is surprising about this collection of stories is the degree of openness or ambivalence set forth by Bradford. While he languidly chooses his own adventure in each, the degree of tension that rises in most of the stories is soon enough offset by a delicate weirdness that prevents real malice from taking over and sending the reader dashing to the nearest bottle of Pepto. Hence, a slight hint of unsettling will envelop the reader, which is exactly what a good collection of short stories is supposed to do. It was a very quick read and stories like Mollusks, The House of Alan Matthews, Bill McQuill, Chainsaw Apple and Roslyn’s Dog tend to linger in my mind, to the extent that I hope Bradford will publish more.