Writer's Block: Ready, steady, read
Healy, Thomas. I Have Heard You Calling In The Night. New York, Harcourt INC., 2006.
I feel like I am in a love affair with Thomas Healy because as I am reading his memoir I am finding his writings both irritating and wonderful at the same time, just like one would think of a lover. Reading becomes difficult with Healy jumping time lines so much. For example on page 131 he jumps from age forty-eight to age twelve. Without any explanation why and no correlation between the two events discussed. He writes his book as one would write a journal of random memories, jumping from one idea to the next in no real order. And he writes as he would speak; that is what brings about my simultaneous frowns and smiles. Every third sentence or so is a fragment which gets the dander up in the writer/student in me, while on the other side I’ve always had an obsession with Glaswegians and his isms just absolutely delight that part of me.
A Glaswegian – that is what Thomas Healy is. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1944. Healy has written three other books, A Hurting Business, Rolling, and It Might Have Been Jerusalem; as well as having several of his short stories published in magazines. His father died when he was only thirteen-years-old, he lived most of his life with his mother and his sister Mary. And, of course, Martin.
Martin was the main focus of this memoir. Martin was a Doberman that Healy adopted on the spur, Martin more chose Healy than the other way around. Throughout the entire book, is one tale of their bonding after another. He does write of other bits of his life, but for the most part, it is a tribute to Martin the Doberman.
Healy takes us all over Scotland and even into London. I was able to get a real good look at the places he described as he traveled. A good example is the things he saw when he ran away in 1958. He ended up in Kings Cross where he met a prostitute who took him home for a week. “Lily was leading me down a lane where some couples were having sex together, almost in the open…I could not stop from watching them, white arses in the night” (p. 45).
Although he talks of some very happy memories alongside the bad, the overall mood of Healy’s book is one of longing. He insinuates that Martin is no longer among the living but talks about him as if he is still walking down the road next to him day by day. But the longing is not for the dog alone, he misses his father terribly too.
Healy tells us about the relationship with his father, how close they were, they even used to share a bed. At night while they were waiting for sleep to come they would talk about all kinds of things. His father died in November of 1957. Healy talks about his mother, how she was white haired but that he never considered her old. She worked well into her eighties and always saved up each year to go on vacation. She had survived the death of her husband, an infant daughter, her parents, and both of her brothers. “You could safely say she had been through the mill and had known her share of sorrow” (p. 22). In March of 1992, Healy’s mother had a stroke. She died three years later at the age of 84.
Although Martin had been credited with saving Healy’s life several times, he also had been a conflict in Healy’s life. The two of them had gotten an amazing job together where Healy had met a wonderful woman. Their relationship was short lived because Healy had put her second to Martin. As much as I’ve grown to admire Healy through reading his book, I have to side against him this time, he was wrong to put a dog before a human.
If this were a novel and I was to name the climax of the story, it is most definitely the moment when he decided to put Martin to sleep. I almost cried, I had to force it back so that I could keep reading. Although there was no real resolution except the slow and steady healing of time.
I Have Heard You Calling In The Night is most certainly about the love of a man and his best friend, but there is a deeper meaning in Healy’s book. The title is in fact a prayer he had sent up to God around the time of his beloved Martin’s death. What might it mean is still a mystery to me; but it is truly a beautifully sad story of love and longing and time. I am very glad to have been allowed to hear his story.