Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight (Fuller)

Author Bio 
Birth—March 29, 1969
Where—Glossop, Derbyshire, UK
Raised—Central Africa
Education—B. A., Acadia University, Nova Scotia, Canada
Currently—lives in Wilson, Wyoming

Alexandra Fuller was born in England in 1969. In 1972 she moved with her family to a farm in Rhodesia. After that country’s civil war in 1981, the Fullers moved first to Malawi, then to Zambia. Fuller received a B.A. from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. In 1994, she moved to Wyoming, where she still lives. She has two children. (From the publisher.)

Her own words:
(From two Barnes & Nobel interviews—in 2003 and 2004)

• There isn't a moment that I am not thinking about Africa. I am either thinking about it in relation to what I am writing at that time, or I am thinking about it in relations to where I am geographically (I am writing this at my desk in my office overlooking the Tetons, which could not be further, you might argue, from Zambia. Yet, I have been thinking all morning that the cry of an angry great blue heron—they are nesting in the aspens at the end of our property—sound like Chacma baboons).

• The best way for me to evoke the same sense of place and the same smells and the same space of Africa is when I am out riding. I have a rather naughty little Arab mare, whom I accompany (it would be an exaggeration to claim that I "ride" her) into the mountains almost every day when the snow is clear. Something about being away from people, alone with a horse and a dog, fills me with an intense sense of joy and well-being, and I always return from these excursions inspired (if not to write, then to be a better mother, or to cook something fabulous, or to do the laundry).

• I have come to the conclusion that I can only write about something if I have actually smelled it for myself. I have no idea what this says about me, but I think it's a fact of my work. I also cannot think of something without immediately evoking its smell (for example, if I think of my father, I think of the smell of cigarette smoke and the bitter scent of his sweat—he has never once worn deodorant, so his smell is very organic and wonderfully his—and of the faint aroma of tea and engine oil he exudes). Once, in France, a particularly thorough journalist (he had 50 questions for me!) said, somewhat accusingly, 'You have written here in your book' (it was Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight) 'about the smell of frog sperm. What exactly does frog sperm smell of?' And without hesitating for a moment, I replied, 'Cut turnips,' which I think surprised both of us.

When asked what book most influenced her life, here is her response:

I remember the visceral thrill and horror and pain and sheer astonishment I felt when I first read Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl. I was 14 years old, and I was sitting in the field beyond the art and science laboratories, under the stink trees at my high school in Harare, Zimbabwe. It was winter (I remember the chilled air mixed with the smell of the trees, which is a sort of mild spilled-sewer smell, and the rough feel of my school uniform on my dry legs, and I remember plucking up tufts of winter-dry grass and the shouts of the girls playing hockey on the lower fields). I swallowed the book whole in a single, stunned afternoon. For days after that, I felt as if I carried the diary and Anne's voice around inside me, as if I was seeing the world through her eyes and speaking it with her sharp, witty tongue, and all the time, I was feeling her terrible confinement and feeling a sort of sickness for how her life had ended. I wanted to swim back through time and warn her that her family would be betrayed; urge her not to give up hope; tell her that the war would be over one day.

The diary was my introduction to nonfiction—if you don't count the cheerful account of Gerald Durrell's young life in Greece in My Family and Other Animals and the short, sanitized accounts of the lives of the English monarchs that I read, or the biographies of supposedly mild-mannered authors of children's books that I inhaled. With the diary, I was struck, not only by how compelling real life can be to read but also by how beautifully written it can be—especially by one so young.

Until I read Anne Frank's diary, I had found books a literal escape from what could be the harsh reality around me. After I read the diary, I had a fresh way of viewing the both literature and the world. From then on, I found I was impatient with books that were not honest or that were trivial and frivolous. Honesty, I found, translated across all languages and experiences and informed the reader about their own world.

For almost the first time in my life, after I read the diary, I found myself thinking about how capricious and evil politics can be, about how racism can fling young lives (old lives, all lives) into turmoil and death. Even though the Holocaust has its own awful place in history for the sheer ghastliness of thinking that brought it about, and the fact that so many died so pointlessly and in such a terrible fashion, I couldn't help thinking about it in terms of the world that I knew. We had recently gone through a war in Rhodesia, in which whites (my parents included) had fought to keep blacks oppressed, without a vote, and without the rights that we whites were entitled to. Blacks were oppressed for being black—they had to shop in different stores, attend different schools, they were spat on, beaten, scorned, dismissed as third-class citizens. I remember thinking, This book should have taught us never to do such things again to one another. And I felt profoundly hopeless for the human race. If Anne Frank—that clear, acerbic, innocent voice could be ignored...then who would we listen to? (From Barnes & Noble.)

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