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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
“This framework of bone protruded against his olive complexion like a demon attempting to escape its elastic cage.” This impeccably written simile demonstrates the incredible level of creative intelligence and literary skill one finds in the superb collection of short stories authored by James Musgrave in Valley of the Dogs. Intelligence and skill permeate and inform each story, imbuing all with the kind of refreshing energy and interest necessary to qualify this achievement as a true renovation and celebration of an otherwise (somewhat) moribund genre of fiction. The golden era of short story writing often seems lost in a past made hazy by the high-tech sponsored emasculation of attention spans and the elevation of hyper-short, sparsely limpid flash fiction into a respectable replacement for adulation. Musgrave shows this new emperor is also without clothes. Rejoice.
Valley of the Dogs by James Musgrave does not resurrect those golden days of short story writing, but it certainly reinstates the field’s dignity and stature, even while adhering to a more concisely told tale – an understandable concession to the modern mind. What these stories lack in unduly protracted exposition is more than compensated for by their acute perfection of voice and quality of expression. Repetitively, each story reeks of editorial precision and literary skill. They are remarkable, really. Franz Kafka and George Gershwin collaborate on Broadway – with inevitably Kafkaesque results. Insanity explored from the inside makes sanity look crazy. Suicide prevention works both ways. Plots like these, so novel as to seem utterly unique, make Valley of the Dogs a collection to be savored, saved, and saluted.