'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Why "The Last Visible Dog"?

What is it?  
For those vaguely interested in the odd name of my blog, here's some information.
Russell Hoban wrote a book entitled "The Mouse and His Child".  You can read more here.

Briefly, it concerns a wind-up toy father mouse and his son whom he holds by the hands.  When wound up, the father walks in circles and raises and lowers his son.  The story is an account of their adventures and their quest to become self-winding and find their family.  It is long, exciting, full of metaphor, and I really loved reading it to my children.  At one point the father and son end up at the bottom of a pond, and it seems that all is lost.  The son has nothing to look at but an old dog-food can that is illustrated with a dog holding a tray upon which is a can of the dog food, on the label of which is a dog holding a tray with a can of dog food, upon which is a picture of a dog...  and so on.  The 'last visible dog' is the smallest dog that can be seen before the son's eyes began to blur and all that he can see is the space between the printed dots. Beyond the LVD there appears to be nothing except blankness.   That is, until the last tiny dog is removed and the shine of the can is revealed.  And the future.  Because the reflection of the son's own face becomes a metaphor for self-determination.  He realises that 'if it's to be, it's up to me', and finally contrives a way to get them out of the pond and resuming their journey.  

I suppose, strictly speaking, my blog should be called 'Beyond the Last Visible Dog'.  
But I'm not changing it now.


  1. The Title Is Perfect! Dont Change it!

  2. Ok. I won't then. Looking forward to your 'new improved version' post ... tell us about the meditation garden - sounds interesting.

  3. Been coming around for quite a while without deciding to read this bit. Sounds like a charming story, and gives a shiny can a purpose in life, underneath its paint! x

    1. Jinksy, somehow I missed replying to your comment here, such a long time ago now. Thanks for it. Yes, there's another level to the story I hadn't considered - that of the slow decay of potentially useful things... I hope you are well?

  4. Anonymous7.8.09

    I don't know you at all, but I am a HUGE fan of "The Mouse and His Child", which I read in childhood, and have used the phrase "the last visible dog" practically my whole life -- especially recently, when trying to explain to friends what "recursion" is. Just for fun tonight, I googled "the last visible dog' to see if anyone else in the world knew what this phrase meant -- and your blog came up! Awesome!!

  5. Welcome to TLVD Puffpastry! Another name is the 'Droste' effect, I think. You might enjoy searching using that word too....

    When I was young we could buy a brand of biscuits in a tin - on the tin's lid was a boy holding a tin, upon which was the boy, holding a tin etc etc... It fascinated me.
    The Mouse and His CHild is a wonderful, wonderful story, is it not?

  6. Also stumbled across your blog via a google search for the last visible dog. Was looking for a picture of a Bonzo can. Never knew there was a book, now I will have to find it! Love the above illustration! Kudos on your blog name, Mouse and His Child is a wholly underappreciated story.

  7. I've come to read this post because I've been so fascinated by the first two of your posts.

    Now I have to explore further.

  8. I knew when I read this that it reminded me of something. It came to me today. The old packets of Persil washing powder in the UK had a picture of a packet of Persil washing powder and so ad infinitem.

    However "Beyond the last visible packet of washing powder" doesn't have quite the same cachet.

  9. Beth - the book "The Mouse and His Child" is delightful - albeit a little 'heavy' for young children in places. (There is a very graphic fight scene at one point, and my 25 year old still remembers being scared by Manny Rat.
    It can be read on many levels.

    GB - The old Bycroft biscuit tin used the Droste effect. A boy held a tin of biscuits under his arm, upon which there was a picture of him holding a tin of biscuits etc etc.
    And I don't know - 'beyond the last washing powder' may be more prosaic, but at least it doesn't have the same implication of dead dogs...

  10. Elizabeth27.6.10

    This book sounds wonderful - I'm going to have to search a copy out, now. x

  11. My first fanzine ever was titled "Beyond the Last Visible Dog", after the selfsame story. Like you, I found the book a delight, and one of the few examples of an animated film as good as the original. With Peter Ustinov as Manny Rat, it came and went in the 80's, and has yet to make a return on DVD.

  12. Thank you, belatedly, for you comment about "The Mouse and His Child", Elizabeth!

    Vinnie - welcome to my site! Nice to 'meet' a fellow fan. I didn't realise the inimitable Ustinov was Manny. Shall come over to yours and see what you do...

  13. The Mouse and His Child is one of the very best books. There's another beautiful instance of last-visibility, in a P.K. Page poem called "A Backwards Journey"

    1. Thanks for the link Marina. I will check the poem out soon.


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