Book Launch: A Dog’s Life Immortalized in Writing

Eileen Myles Launches their New Book Afterglow (a dog memoir)

Photo of Eileen Myles. Photo Ion Etxebarria

After decades of a prolific and creative literary career, Eileen Myles launched their latest book, Afterglow (a dog memoir) last September.

This article has been updated.

Montreal’s latest literary edition La Petite Librairie Drawn and Quarterly was freshly painted and ready to welcome Myles on Tuesday. It had been raining all day, the room was steamy, and the floor was covered in leaves. Upon their arrival, Myles reflected on the beauty of the scene.

Eager to meet this icon of American literature, devoted readers arrived an hour early, securing their seats and leafing through copies of the book. Both long and short term readers and curious passersby were drawn in by the gathering crowd, and the room was full and buzzing with energy.

Soon, every chair was occupied, and a standing crowd began to form. Despite the rain, the audience’s excitement wasn’t quelled.

Afterglow (a dog memoir) is an intense and complex poetic account of the life and passing of Rosie, Myles’ late pit-bull. The writer masterfully uses language to illuminate raw realities of the relationship between dog and owner.

“If they’re dog lovers, then [reading Afterglow (a dog memoir)] might be like a heightened appreciation for the intelligence of the exchange we have with dogs,” said Myles about their readers. “It’s meditative, it’s spiritual, it’s cultural; in all the ways they’re embedded in our existences.”

A table was set up, featuring only a fraction of Myles’s impressive body of work. Beside a stack of Chelsea Girls and Sorry, Tree, a pile of brand new copies of Afterglow (a dog memoir) rested.

“The day that [the photographer, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders] took the picture of me, I was kind of busy, and I hadn’t really taken Rosie for a walk,” Myles said about the cover of the book. “When I got to the studio, which was very close to my apartment, he seemed irritated at this woman and her dog.”

Cover for Myles’s book, Afterglow (a dog memoir). Photo Ion Etxebarria

Myles laughed, recalling how their interaction with the photographer had not been pleasant. In fact, Myles had only received the photos for the book about a year or two ago. And the photoshoot had happened 20 years ago. Myles later clarified that Greenfield-Sanders was not mad at her, but that they were too uncomfortable to ask for the photos.

“It came out of the past,” Myles said, holding a copy of their book, contemplating Rosie.

When they read excerpts of their book out loud to the crowd, they gave an insightful voice to Rosie and intensified the humour of the text. The performance was more than a recitation; Myles caught the vibe of the room and condensed it into creative energy. They were generous and frank in their delivery of their text.

“The foam is sort of how a book grows, this accumulation, this froth that’s almost like a transitional object,” said Myles, about the concept of foam as a literary motor in their novel. “The book keeps transitioning. The foam seems really central to the way the book is being born. And even this crazy idea of women, female deities, being born from the foam of male genitals. There’s a gender reversal in the concept of foam, which I’m really interested in.”

Afterglow (a dog memoir) drips of humor and tenderness, intertwining Rosie’s voice, critical and loving towards her owner, with the writer’s experiences of love and loss.

“A big piece of what this dog meant for me was that I knew her from puppy to her death. I saw that whole life,” Myles explained.

“Have fun, play” they said about writing. “Writing is really a space of excess, and imagination, and froth, and idleness, and passion. The first flush of it, either in your life, or even in the creation of a work, is something that’s really a pleasure.”

A previous iteration of this article attributed a bad experience as to why Myles only received the photos for their book much later than expected. The Link regrets this mistake.