The Boss Dog by MFK Fisher
North Point Press, San Fransisco, 1991
I discovered MFK Fisher last winter and have been working my way through her books ever since. Bill Moyers claims Fisher was an American treasure, I agree with him. Most of her books that I have read were about food and they are absolutely delicious. The Boss Dog is different, a tale of family told in her crisp, elegant, beautiful style.
This is the story of an American mother and her two daughters, eight and eleven, who spend a year in France. It takes place in the early 1950’s in the beautiful city of Aix-en-Provence, filled with cafes and fountains.
Mother, Anne and Mary spend their time becoming familiar with the Aix-en-Provence, it’s cafes and streets. They begin to know the people that live and work there. The girls attention is caught by one particular character, an odd looking dog, who seems to have the run of the place.
The door closed. Some of the outside noises stopped. The waiter, who later came to be known as Leon, except on Wednesdays when Paul took over for him, opened the door and then closed it again, as if to assure himself that a human had done it and not a four-legged fellow, and Boss Dog walked slowly across the room toward Anne and Mary.
He was the doggiest dog anyone ever saw, just the way you say that a Mexican-Yankee-French-Greek is the most Mexican-Yankee-French-Greek individual you ever saw, summing up all of himself as such, up to his cocky wonderful ears in whatever he was doing. This fellow was everything a creature could possibly be of HIM, of HE. He was Boss Dog.
Anne recognized him at once as something ultimate. Page 10.
This lovely story provides a fully drawn portrait of the city throughout the year, captures the joys and difficulties of being a foreigner and pokes gentle fun at the comfort and annoyance of family.
Anne sipped delicately at her Perrier water, which was what she always ordered since she’d read an advertisement saying it not only helped cure gout, liver fatigue, diabetes and milk-leg in nursing mothers, but added sparkle to the complexion.
“The trouble with Mary,” she said, licking some bubbles of her upper lip, “is that she got ink all over everything again today. Those juicy French inkwells are just too tempting and splashy.”
“Oh, you,” Mary said. “Form of tattle-telling. I’m disgusted.”
“Look,” the mother said. “I’ve been working all morning and I came up here to have a little drink with you ladies and if you can’t pull yourselves together you can jolly well….”
“There he is,” Mary said, sitting up and taking a big swig of her fruit juice. “Excuse me for interrupting. Hah! Something’s up, eh?” Her eyes were snapping with curiosity. Page 53.
Mother and daughters have many adventures and, always, Boss Dog seems to be right in the middle of things. I loved this little book and plan to read as much of MFK Fisher’s work as I can get my hands on.