If compelled to categorize The Bosphorus Dogs, I’d have to say that it’s a character-driven, literary novel set in Turkey, mostly in Istanbul, that begins in September 2003. Given the time and the place, though, I’d be a fool not to make use of the fact that a newly-elected nouveau-Islamist party was in power, that an army coup against it was expected daily and was openly discussed in the press, that George W. Bush’s war next door in Iraq was entering into the agonizing phase of the occupation, and that in less than two months two synagogues in Istanbul, the British consulate, and a British bank would be blown to pieces by local associates of al-Qaïda.
That said, the immediate focus is on my trio of primary characters: an American expatriate in his fifties, formerly a journalist, now teaching in a local college, his estranged 22 year-old daughter travelling in the year after her mother’s terrible death, and a mittel-European Israeli friend of the expat with a military and legal background who may or may not be a stringer for Mossad and who does worry about the security of Istanbul’s synagogues and thinks he might be onto something . . .
That’s the starting point, at least. I’ve written about 200 pages of it by now and the story has definitely found its legs amid lots of local color, carpet dealers, Sufis, dervishes, assorted chancers and connivers, etc . . . Istanbul’s roving dog packs do get a mention and a look, but the title refers more generally to anyone who has come to Byzantium-Constantinople-Istanbul for a scrap of its old and new glories and a richer sense of life.
In this case that search involves, among other things, Sufism and adventures among the local dervishes that include both reportage and visionary experience, not in the interest of spiritual boosterism but to continue and extend fiction’s realist project: the honest elucidation of empirical experience as it comes. So: a great and ancient city, heaven and earth and as much as can be recorded of what lies or flies between them.
I’m launching this appeal in order to support myself during work on the book, which I expect will take me about a year of solid work to complete. I have another iron or two in the fire that may help keep me going, a roof over my head, and food in the larder. In the current state of the economy and the parlous state of the publishing industry in the electronic age—not to mention the less than smashing success of my second book, I, Wabenzi—I’ve found it difficult, let’s say, to get a working advance for an unfinished novel that might have sold pretty easily three years ago. I have reason to believe that the book, successfully completed, will find an appropriate publisher. So I’m putting the book’s fate in the hands of its possible public. As the song of a friend of mine, from whom I borrowed the title, puts it: What will become of The Bosphorus Dogs?
If you’re not able to support the work yourself, please pass the word along to those who might be.
Excerpts from the work in progress, along with extracts from published work and other tidbits, can be found at bopdogs.tumblr.com.
I borrowed the title, with permission, from Aaron Cass's sort of beatnik-rap-poem-song of the same name. Like Aaron's poem, the book sometimes mentions the dog packs of Istanbul but the phrase primarily refers to those who have come to that ancient seat of empire in search of a scrap of glory, or story . . . Many find both.
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