I tried so hard to be into the zombified-carnage-apathy vibe of the Brat Pack, Ellis and narcotic wastelands and all that, before I fell in love with the ‘McSweeneyites’. It’s a funny term for those in and around the orbit of Dave Eggers and McSweeney’s in the early Oughts, and their now-nostalgic brand of tender lucidity, especially because John Haskell’s debut collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock was not actually published by McSweeney’s. And yet it feels like a crowning jewel to that scene and that oeuvre, and ‘Laika’s Dream’, included in the collection, allows us into the mind of the real Soviet dog who went into space in 1957 and, as anyone with access to Wikipedia might know, never came back.
When I think of this story I think of awe and homecoming, and the vastness of space as a very warm blanket. It’s generous and heartbreaking and course-correcting for a young writer like I was then, who was looking for a way into emotion and could never quite reach lift-off. (Get it?)
Listen to Laika’s Dream on Studio 360, New York Public Radio. First published in I Am Not Jackson Pollock, Pan Macmillan, 2003