The Straight Story – 7 – The Angriest Dog in the World

Odin help me when I finally get to Twin Peaks and find myself doing this on an episode-by-episode basis, but my next subject in my delving into the complete works of David Lynch is something that was again an episodic work. Something as a matter of fact, episodic enough that I had to actively search to find all nine years worth of work on it and then spend my time reading them all, but I’m glad I got to it. Kind of.

You see, the thing about The Angriest Dog in the World is that I once again have to admit an intellectual stop to me that came about halfway through reading the comic strip (which premiered in LA Reader in 1983 and ran weekly there until it ended in 1992 – the year of my birth). I didn’t get it.

No, wait, I got it just fine. I just couldn’t connect with it. It was like the two latter parts of Lars von Trier’s Depression trilogy where we could easily read what was in the auteur’s head but that didn’t mean that a vast majority of us were actually going to respond to it.

Which is the unfortunate truth about The Angriest Dog in the World. Reading 9 years’ worth of comic strips that repeated themselves in four simple blocks didn’t make me emotionally or intellectually connect with Lynch’s expression of several facets of anger – the inconsequence of anger (for the entirety of the run, there is always a conversation happening without any regard to the dog outside), the disability of anger (the dog is practically put in a state of “rigor mortis” from his rage), the fading linger of anger (Lynch based the comic strip on a memory of his therapy session 10 years before publishing it because he happened to be in an inexplicable state of anger).

The strip itself is very sparse and minimalist – possibly because Lynch wouldn’t be much of a cartoonist, though I’m not sure how that hypothesis would hold up towards an art student like Lynch was – and that means that every single strip will have these themes pack and carry this portrayal of anger as concisely and direct as possible. Just four panels, three of them the exact same frame of a dog growling tethered to a tree and the fourth him at night. The variable is the dialogue coming from inside the house next to him while is often either an insanely existential thought or some short humor that keeps the strip just a little bit lively and me moving on to the next strip.

So even if I don’t have much to say (and I really don’t and given the hour it is as I type this, I think I’m needing to doze off soon), it is clear that this ritual was perhaps just as therapeutic to Lynch as his transcendental meditation (and I’d almost like to say some of the dialogue he chose for this family was informed by the meditation). He’d certainly need it after having dealt with Dune, but with the next picture, it seemed like his hands were to be less tied and his mind to be less tethered as this poor raging dog.

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4 thoughts on “The Straight Story – 7 – The Angriest Dog in the World

  1. Kudos to you for tackling this in the series – and actually reading them all! I hope you enjoyed the experience (on some level) even if you didn’t “enjoy” it! I honestly find that, generally, with comic strips I don’t usually love them. Other than something like Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes. But for the most part, I just kind of pleasantly absorb them. Strange as it sounds, I could see myself reading hundreds of comic strips that I didn’t find particularly amusing or insightful, and not really minding the experience: there is something very meditative about it, so perhaps you’re right Lynch came up with these captions while meditating. I’ve only read a few Angry Dogs myself and generally find the concept more amusing than the execution but maybe that’s the point.

    You’re gonna do every episode of Twin Peaks? Or just the ones Lynch directed? Looking forward to more of these entries, either way…

    • Well, I did say I’d tackle all of Lynch’s creative works to the best of my resources and ability to access them. The Angriest Dog in the World proved able to catch.

      It’s quite the opposite the “enjoyment” thing. In retrospect, I can’t think of any of the strips that I think are terrible (like I said, many of them are legitimately funny to me), but I didn’t enjoy having put myself through reading comic strip AFTER comic strip AFTER comic strip at times. Maybe if I were 10 years old again, but then-again if I were 10, I wouldn’t be able to get it.

      As for the Twin Peaks question, which is a very good question, I think I will make two articles – one per season – before also making articles for each episode directed by Lynch. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be dead before finishing the series if I tackle EVERY. SINGLE. EPISODE. (like, for fuck’s sake, kudos to YOU for getting all the ones you got through – entire first season and most of the second). Besides I figure I’d prefer to just shell the money out for a lobotomy rather than write that much.

  2. If you replace the title with Twin Peaks, and the placeholder nouns with tv nouns like, series and episode, the essay becomes a spot on depiction of how I feel about Twin Peaks. Wonderfully done.

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