This novel is about two men and a dog. Dan Rhodes began writing it somewhere around late 1996 or early 1997, and finished it in 2002. While putting the finishing touches to Timoleon Vieta Come Home, he was dropped by his publisher of the time, F***** E*****. They told him that the book was ‘not publishable’ because it would ‘not stand up to critical scrutiny’. Fortunately it was picked up by an infinitely more discerning publisher and came out in 2003. Let’s look at some examples of critical scrutiny, and see if F***** E***** were right:
An effortlessly charming and utterly enjoyable novel. The Guardian
In the rush to praise Monica Ali and Mark Haddon, many critics have overlooked the writing of Dan Rhodes, who is surely the true best of Granta’s new Best Of list. Everybody should go out and buy Timoleon Vieta Come Home, a tender but unsentimental novel about a failed composer, his sadistic lover and his mongrel dog. A story worthy of W.G. Sebald, universal in its scope and ambition. Rose Tremain, The Telegraph
A dog, a beautiful mongrel, is the hero of Dan Rhodes’s first novel, Timoleon Vieta Come Home, which is by turns hilarious and heartrending. Rhodes is that real, rare thing – a natural storyteller. Paul Bailey, The Sunday Times
This short novel is a delight, a masterpiece of beautifully unforced comedy. The Observer
A tragicomedy heavy on the comedy, Timoleon Vieta is an extremely fresh and sensitive meditation on love lost and unresolved anger. A beautiful and often touching book. Independent on Sunday
A tale about the bond between a dog and his owner doesn’t sound like essential reading, but Rhodes’ writing is utterly captivating. Heat
Timoleon Vieta Come Home resembles Italo Calvino’s Difficult Loves and Alberto Moravia’s The Voice Of The Sea, and that’s saying something. Rhodes clearly has a firm grasp of passionate misunderstandings and hopeless undertakings. It’s almost enough to make you cry. Irish Times
Beguiling and affecting… an amusing and exhilarating ragbag. I have to say that I rather loved it. The Independent
A heartbreaking tale of loneliness, longing, betrayal and dogged devotion. The Herald
Savagely funny, startlingly original. The Times
A novel that’s as unusual as it is unforgettable. Arena
Imagine a series of The Littlest Hobo directed by David Lynch. Spectator
It’s a hard trick to be stylish, affecting and cartoonishly absurd all at the same time, but Rhodes manages it. Time Out
Charming, original, funny, biting and wise. The Guardian
Part shaggy dog tale, part fairy tale, part Lassie takeoff, and a quite thoroughly original debut… his story veers dangerously between the Scylla and Charybdis of tearful sentimentality and mocking irony, somehow managing to stay on course, constantly subverting the reader’s expectations, even as it plays to our most visceral yearnings for closure and happy endings… He has written a beguiling and resonant little novel. Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Terrifically talented… Charming, funny and sad, this is a story about very human universals: love, loss and loneliness. The Observer
This is an original, delightful read. Daily Telegraph
Hilariously subverted, the humour is really dark and will make you laugh out loud… A must-read. The Big Issue
Remarkable… funny and touching, a weird and wonderful reminder of life’s contingencies and sadness. The Independent
…extraordinary. I haven’t read anything like it before. It’s a seemingly unemotive but beautifully crafted novel with a big emotional hook at the end. It really smacks you in the face. DBC Pierre, Guardian Books Of The Year
I also really enjoyed Dan Rhodes’ Timoleon Vieta Come Home. He and I clearly share an obsession with dogs and I don’t think I’m giving too much away if I say we have left the way open for someone to write a novel where something ugly is done to a dog using a spoon. Mark Haddon, Guardian Books Of The Year
Rhodes’s debut is a joy. The Times
Oh dear. As you can see, F***** E***** were not exactly vindicated.
Timoleon Vieta Come Home won the Authors’ Club First Novel Award and the QPB New Voices Award, and was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Prince Maurice Prize. It is currently ‘not publishable’ in around twenty languages.
It went on to star in Knocked Up, and Cate Le Bon even sang a song about it. Look:
SPAIN, Alfaguara. ISBN: 84204650305
PORTUGAL, Temas e Debates. ISBN: 9727596371
UK, Canongate. ISBN: 184195389X
The first edition is kind of textured and papery, and subsequent printings are smooth and a bit rubbery.
UK, Canongate. ISBN: 1841954810
Samesame but green.
NETHERLANDS, De Bezige Bij. ISBN: 9023411684
FRANCE, Stock. ISBN: 2234056802
US, Canongate. ISBN: 1841954225
A hardback edition. Very nice it is too.
GERMANY, Kiepenheuer & Witsch. ISBN: 3462033174
GERMANY, DTV. ISBN: 3423133457
US, Harcourt: ISBN: 0156029952
SERBIA, Narodna Knjiga Alfa. ISBN: 8633112264
DENMARK, Tiderne Skifter. ISBN: 8779730744
ISRAEL, Miskal. ISBN: 9655115372
RUSSIA, Amphora. ISBN: 5942786968
BRAZIL, Rocco. ISBN: 853251815X
NORWAY, Dinamo. ISBN: 8280719841
A hardback beauty from Norway…
GREECE, Palatinus. ISBN: 9604103687
CROATIA, Algoritam. ISBN: 9532202269
JAPAN, Andrews Press. ISBN: 4901868055
SWEDEN, Lind & Co. ISBN: 9185267104
ITALY, Garzanti. ISBN: 8811665264
US, QPB/Canongate. ISBN: 1841954225.
Book club edition, same ISBN as US hardback.
HUNGARY, Palatinus. ISBN: 9639487953
TAIWAN, Locus. ISBN: 9867291808
Thailand & Slovakia. Maybe some others too. More news on these as it breaks.