Rosecrans Baldwin, whose debut novel You Lost Me There comes out later this summer, has written a hilarious piece about the most commonplace cliché you never knew existed: “Novelists can’t resist including a dog barking in the distance.” And, Baldwin reveals, “Having heard the dog’s call, it seemed like I couldn’t find a book without one,” citing examples from works as diverse as William Faulkner‘s Light in August (“She did not answer for a time. The fireflies drifted; somewhere a dog barked, mellow sad, faraway”), Henning Mankell‘s The Eye of the Leopard (“She begins to tell him. The curtain in the kitchen window flutters gently, and a dog barks in the distance”), Harper Lee‘s To Kill a Mockingbird (“Ripe chinaberries drummed on the roof when the wind stirred, and the darkness was desolate with the barking of distant dogs”), Colum McCann‘s Let the Great World Spin (“The street throbbed around me. Nobody’s fault but my own. The bark of a dog flew by”), and Roberto Bolano‘s 2666 (“The window looked out over the garden, which was still lit. A scent of flowers and wet grass drifted into the room. In the distance he heard a dog bark”).
What is going on? Are writers everywhere suffering from some unknown canine obsession? And are we going to find dog-bark-hunting in our future reading simply too irresistible? You bet we are! We plan to keep track of any we uncover and may share them with you at a later date; we would love it if you did the same. Is this the best new party game or what?