In 1829 two American trappers stumbled upon an archaeological excavation near where the Pyramids of Giza are located. While seeing what were thought to be mummies brought these explorers into the middle of a mine shaft where man and animal bones abound.
Greg Cochran’s book The Power of the Dog: A True Story of Torture, Discovery, and Vengeance pulls off a narrative that at times recalls W. E. B. Du Bois’ famous The Souls of Black Folk and at others is more reminiscent of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. This novel follows one troubled man who unleashes the hidden powers of the dog he befriends and gives to a man who feels like he has lost the will to live.
One of the many fascinations of this novel is that every sentence is like breaking into new terrain that only Cochran could piece together with perfect precision. The vivid images of the ancient times and of the dog that protects and teaches those who encountered it are far more vivid than what could be simulated in a historical setting. There are beautiful passages that managed to make the past so present and yet still be fresh.
Cochran writes in a way that helps one follow through the labyrinthine plot in ways that are important and engrossing. The tone of this novel is so affecting, such a sobering page turner, that one can’t help but raise one’s voice to engage, beg for more, even pray when the characters are presented as mesmerizing or inspiring. While much of the dialogue is muddled because it is often littered with horrific details, the prose is so rich and the narratives so compelling that it is hard to resist absorbing this book for its fascinating exploration of animal sexuality.
Pablo Sanchez is a professor of english at Trinity College and author of Animal and Human Sexuality: From Man the Mouse to Animal the Man