If I was MCing an event in honour of Coco, I would kick things off by saying that even if I were Coco’s intimate familiar, I would still find myself at something of a loss as regards how to describe him and what to think about him. I believe that everyone is boggled by the fact of Coco, the raw enigma of him, and that no one can get used to him, but that is just a hunch. I have never met Coco, so I cannot be certain. The only person I know who also knows Coco is Liam, my brother. Liam is fortunate enough to be Coco’s actual neighbor, and to interact with him regularly, and to send me pictures of him with accompanying messages that say just, “Rose look at Coco.” “Look at this dog’s face.” He doesn’t have the words, and neither do I. Maybe if Coco were my dog or even lived across the street from me, I would be able to get used to him. Maybe I would be able to walk past this dog who looks exactly like a distressed adult man without even pausing or shouting COCO loudly to myself in my head.
Coco, Liam Lyster
The first time I ever saw a picture of Coco I laughed for a long, long time. I sent Coco’s photograph to my friend Ben, who replied immediately, going, But this dog looks like a man. I said, I know, and he said, Like a MAN. I said I know. I have gotten this same response from everyone I have ever sent Coco’s photo to, and that is gratifying in its way, but I worry that I am tampering with the results of the experiment. I worry that my own personal bewilderment about the existence of Coco is too apparent, and that people are responding with things about Coco that they know I want to hear: Yes, he looks like a man. Yes, he reminds me of former Brexit minister Dominic Raab, or of the Michael Stuhlbarg character in A Serious Man. Yes, I am also reminded of how frankly sinister it is that we don’t think more about the inner lives of pets. We do, but not enough. The example of Coco should serve as a chastening reminder. Maybe they are only saying all this to make me pleased. I would be delighted to hear the thoughts of any neutral observers on this matter. COCO.
Dominic Raab resigned today, and my mum messaged me to say, “The shit has officially hit the fan with Brexit.” It seems like the shit has been hitting the fan with Brexit for at least six months. The whole wretched shambles becomes more impossible to understand with every passing moment, but what I am saying is that I saw a picture of Dominic Raab today, clutching his head and looking like he had gone bald in two weeks, and the first thing I thought was, “That man looks like Coco.”
Coco makes me feel like I am losing my mind and I have never even met him. In one sense, he is simply a nervous dog that my brother knows. In another sense, he is Coco (COCO), who makes me think about the nature of consciousness. If you look at photos of Coco or even think about him you start to feel this deep skepticism about the distinctions we draw between different kinds of living things, and about the lies we tell ourselves in order to keep our attention off the ledge. COCO. We look at him and say, You, Coco, are a dog whereas I am a human being. We aren’t the same. We look at him for a bit longer and think, Well is that even remotely true. In Ill Nature, Joy Williams notes that anthropomorphism originally meant the attribution of human characteristics to God. Now, she says, it is used “almost exclusively to ascribe human characteristics—such as fidelity or altruism or pride, or emotions such as love, embarrassment, or sadness—to the nonhuman animal. One is guilty of anthropomorphism, though it is no longer a sacrilegious word. It is a derogatory, dismissive one that connotes a sort of rampant sentimentality.”
JOY WILLIAMS, I present COCO. I look at Coco and I see what you mean. Yes, broadly, Coco is a dog whereas I am a human being but is it really sentimental to suggest that Coco has a great deal going on upstairs? I don’t think the sincerely worried expression on his face is just what happens when you have the facial features of whatever kind of dog he is. A little brown one. A poodle. COCO. It fucks me up to reflect on him, because he is just there in his garden doing whatever he is doing, and there is never ever ever going to be a way for me or any other person to know what he is thinking. It fucks me up to know that he will never meet Louie, another dog I think about way too much, a dog who seemed in every meaningful respect to be Coco’s black swan. Coco’s anguish turns inward, whereas Louie (RIP) projected his anguish onto the world. Coco looks like he tries not to burden anyone with his troubles, whereas Louie’s entire raison d’êtrewas making sure that absolutely everyone was up to date on what was bothering him. LOUIE.
If I was MCing an event in honour of Coco, I would come onto the stage after the jazz band had finished its set and I would say, Well, Coco, I wish I knew you. Not just to say hi to, but enough to confirm my ever-growing suspicion that we are at least a little bit the same, and maybe enough to know whether you were appalled or consoled by this knowledge. Because I know you had ideas on the subject.
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