The heartbreaking reason my dog thinks “The Booksellers” is the best film of the year.
Last week, my dog Doug and I finally caught up with The Booksellers, the recent documentary about antiquarian and second-hand booksellers which is now streaming, without any sense of irony, on Amazon Prime. Doug usually isn’t very interested in movies, preferring, instead, the movie that plays out from the windows of my second floor bedroom. There, he looks out across the adjoining yards that run behind us, waiting for something to happen. The pace is slow, but when a neighbor starts burning garbage (illegally!), or the illusive German shepherds reappear in their yard, the thrill is undeniable. If you are a dog.
The Booksellers wouldn’t seem to be much competition for the mesmerizing anticipation of what comes from being the canine reincarnation of Mrs. Kravitz, but about twenty minutes into The Booksellers, Doug abandoned his perch and settled in at my side. He leaned into me. I couldn’t recall a time in the past year when he felt so content against me. Then it came to me: it was the voices. All those talking heads. He hadn’t heard so many talking voices in what must seem, to a dog, to be forever.
In our old life, pre-pandemic, pre-moving to New York, there were many voices. In New Orleans, on Sundays, we would drive across the Canal to the French Quarter. Some days we would stroll the Quarter, where Doug would throw himself in front of every tourist we passed, showing them just a few seconds of attention before dashing in front of his next fan. His thing was to sit briefly in front of them, get them to lay their hands on him, look them briefly in the eye, then dash off to the next, nearest mark. Or we might spend hours sitting in a cafe on Rampart, talking with Mari, with the owners, with everyone who passed by. All those voices.
But six years ago we moved back to New York, half a dog’s lifetime, and things got quiet. I kept thinking that one day I would bring Doug into Manhattan from our place in the Hudson Valley. He would be thrilled by the crowds. He would think it was all for him. And now there aren’t any crowds to find. Will there be crowds again in time for Doug to see them? He’s thirteen.