Nose Down, Eyes Up: A Novel by Merrill MarkoeNose Down, Eyes Up: A Novel by Merrill Markoe

Nose Down, Eyes Up: A Novel

byMerrill Markoe

Paperback | April 20, 2010

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At forty-seven, Gil is the world’s oldest twenty-two-year-old man, living in relative contentment with his four dogs, including the alpha, Jimmy. When he stumbles upon Jimmy delivering lectures on canine manipulative techniques to the rest of the dogs in the neighborhood, Gil’s not particularly surprised, and his eyes light up with dollar signs. But their money-making venture has barely begun when chatty canine Jimmy realizes the shocking truth: He’s adopted. And not only is Gil not his real father, they’re not even the same species. In the identity crisis that ensues, Gil hears the last thing he wants his favorite dog to say: Jimmy wants to be reunited with his birth mother, a bitch owned by Gil’s sexy ex-wife, now remarried and living in Malibu. Could things get worse? Apparently, yes.
Emmy Award—winning writer Merrill Markoe has authored three books of humorous essays and the novels Walking in Circles Before Lying Down and It’s My F —ing Birthday and co-authored (with Andy Prieboy) the novel The Psycho Ex Game.
Title:Nose Down, Eyes Up: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 7.91 × 5.19 × 0.73 inPublished:April 20, 2010Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345500210

ISBN - 13:9780345500212

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Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not as good as it sounds The premise of this book is what got me to read it. I picked it up expecting a humourous novel about a dog looking to find his identity - and I got that, only to have it coupled with an extremely unlikable protagonist who, in my opinion, deserves each unfortunate event that happens to him. The reading is easy and there are good moments with the dogs, but you won't miss much if you skip this.
Date published: 2011-06-26

Read from the Book

1   Not That Stupid   If you ask me, most people are a pain in the ass. Sometimes it's all I can do to keep from telling them to go fuck themselves.   You'd get a different opinion if you asked my dog Jimmy. He thinks most people are fantastic, because he knows how to manipulate them. I've never been good at any of that.   Of every creature in the world, Jimmy seemed like the one guy who understood me. Sometimes I would just look at him and feel a whole lot better. During my divorce I started talking to Jimmy about everything, though I guess I was doing most of the talking. After five years with Eden, I probably needed to vent. I should add at this point, if I hadn't had the misfortune of running into my ex that day at the market, none of the rest of this crap would have happened. I certainly wouldn't have intentionally made a plan to see her. I may be stupid, but I'm not that stupid.   2   Damn!   Of the four dogs that lived with me through the whole thing, Jimmy was the only one I'd raised from a pup. The rest started out as foster dogs, rescued by my girlfriend, Sara, a woman neck deep in the stray dog laws of entropy, which, of course, tell us that there will always be more dogs than you will have space for, unless you make a point of trying not to see them. In her case, that would have been impossible.   This was a happy period in my life. I was grateful to be working on the Bremners’ summerhouse in Malibu, where I'd lived rent-free for three years in exchange for doing the kind of work that I actually enjoy. It was what I called “puttering” and it consisted of things I'd do even if no one was paying me, like adding on rooms, replacing and repairing broken stuff, clearing out rot, figuring out what part of something was keeping it from working. The only hitch was that I had to find somewhere else to stay whenever the Bremners showed up. Lucky for me they had a choice of three other vacation houses, two of them on lakes.   I was getting ready to build them a new deck just off the master bedroom, so I was prepping the area—cleaning up the dog poop where I needed to reroute some sprinkler pipes. With four dogs on the premises, keeping the lawn green required a good deal of vigilance. Back then the Bremner estate was set in the center of three very landscaped acres. When I first saw the place, I thought of Thomas Jefferson's boyhood home, if Thomas Jefferson had grown up in Baja. The Bremners’ five-thousand-square-foot main house was built in an architectural style that combined Colonial elements with a Spanish roof in a way that I thought of as Pueblo Tudor. Martin Bremner designed it himself. When you have money I guess you can do what you want.   Usually Jimmy sat beside me while I worked, in a position that reminded me of the Sphinx: upright on his stomach with his front feet and back feet placed fore and aft. He had an inscrutable way of staring that always made me feel like he found me fascinating. Though he was as still as a piece of statuary, every so often he would spring to his feet, run over, and lick my face like I was a delicious frozen dessert. At moments like these, when he would appear happier to see me than I have ever been to see anyone, even though he'd been sitting there for hours on end and had seen me and seen me and seen me and seen me some more, I would be reminded how much I liked his company. Jimmy was the only guy I knew who could change my mood for the better just by showing up.   You know how people say you end up looking like your dog? That was probably true of me and Jimmy. We were both in good shape for middle-aged guys; big and beefy. Meaty, but not fatty. We both had square faces and big round brown eyes and wavy but not curly black hair. Although Jimmy had a lot more of it than I had these days.   Anyway, it was about two in the afternoon, and the radio was blasting some kind of alternative music I couldn't hear too well because I had such a lame-ass radio. Everything that came out of that sad little speaker sounded like it was a poorly recorded electronic atonal foreign language opera.   Right about then I noticed Jimmy was nowhere to be found. None of the others were around either: no Cheney, no Fruity, no Dink. So I started to worry that there'd been a massive prison break. Every few months when Jimmy detected something of interest on the other side of the street, he'd eat a hole in the fence and tunnel out. It took Jimmy to get the old ball rolling, but then the rest of the dog team followed suit. I never understood why Jimmy, a dog who'd been pampered and worshipped since he was a puppy was so hell-bent on escaping. It's not like he had the skills to make it out there on his own. But one thing Jimmy never seemed to do was think very far ahead.   After looking around and not seeing any obvious new fence hole, I thought I heard some kind of commotion over by the Bremners’ four-car garage, which was a separate freestanding Tudor hacienda structure built specifically to house the West Coast branch of the Bremner car collection: The ‘82 Mercedes, the ‘59 El Dorado, the ‘95 Porsche Carrera, and, of course, the Prius. The usual rich-guy crap. Those damn cars had a nicer place to live out their retirement than any of the members of my family. So I headed over there to make sure my four drooling bug-infested morons weren't scratching up any of those expensively maintained paint jobs.   When I peered in an open side door, I got quite a surprise. An unusually large gathering of dogs were seated in a big group, panting and staring, apparently spellbound by something. As my eyes grew accustomed to the dimness, I realized that Jimmy was standing in front of them, holding forth like some overserved extrovert at a literary salon. Fruity, Cheney, and Dink, my other three dogs, were seated in the front row, listening intently. And behind them were more dogs I recognized from the neighborhood: Samson, the overweight rottweiler mix from down the street; Harvey, the spaniel who lived next door; Squirty, that silly Jack Russell; and a few more whose names I didn't know.   At first I stood quietly, unnoticed. Then Cheney, my shepherd-coyote mix, smelled me and turned his head, offering a cursory wag of his tail. It was one of those “ Yo. How ya doin’!” lackadaisical double thump-thumps that meant he had seen me but wasn't interested in pursuing it.   That I could understand Jimmy as he lectured to the other dogs didn't surprise me nearly as much as it would have before I started hanging out with Sara. She was constantly going on about teaching people to turn on their inner light by talking to their animals. That's what she did for a living; Sara was an animal communicator. Yeah, yeah, I know. To be honest, I never allowed myself to really explore the idea that Sara might be nuts. Though sometimes I wondered who she'd have been if she'd been born in Ohio. My feeling was that, regardless, she was still someone I liked. Anyway, it wasn't the nuts who gave me trouble in life, because they just assumed you agreed with them. It was the sane people who tried to make you submit to their agenda. In any case, it was hard to fault Sara, because she was apparently in the right place at the right time. There seemed to be an ever growing segment of the population in Southern California actually willing to pay her to come to their house and explain why Dwayne the overweight Siamese cat wasn't eating. Or why Tyson the pit bull tore up the carpet when they were gone. Believe it or not, she made bank leading workshops where she taught people to key into the problematic animals in question through meditation, and then to accept that the voices they were hearing in their head were the animals speaking to them telepathically. I said to her, “Hey, isn't that where it all went wrong for Son of Sam?” That was the kind of remark that Sara didn't find funny.   Sara and I had a pretty good relationship. She not only cooked and baked for me, I thought she was hot in that very specific way that I have only seen in crazy women. In my experience, crazy girls really put out more than their better balanced sisters because they seemed to be under the impression that love could make them sane. That particular philosophical quirk was the one thing that Sara had in common with my ex-wife, Eden.   When I first heard Jimmy talking, I thought I was catching Sara's pathology by osmosis the way I thought I was a Buddhist for a minute when I was married to Eden. When I live with someone, I tend to pick up their beliefs. Lucky for me I've never been hot for a crack whore.   “I've been told repeatedly that I'm a very good boy,” Jimmy was saying to the others. “As far as I can tell, it's in the genes.”   “Is it okay if I ask a question? I'm sorry,” I heard Fruity, my golden retriever mix, ask nervously, “but is that how you got him to let you sleep next to him on the bed?”   “Nah. Anyone can do it. It takes a month from beginning to end,” Jimmy counseled.  

Editorial Reviews

“Delightful . . . No one channels dogs more amusingly than [Markoe] does.”—Boston Globe
“Read this novel for its nose-to-the-ground wisdom, its unsentimental take on family, and for the funniest, furriest pack of jokesters this side of the Marx Brothers.”—O: The Oprah Magazine

“Hilarious . . . a must-read for dog lovers.”—Publishers Weekly

“Whimsical . . . an ideal place to bury your nose.”—Los Angeles Times