Comedian and writer Jamie Loftus graced the world with Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, and an avid wiener enthusiast like me couldn’t pass it up. I know we’re a sci-fi and fantasy site, but I had to sing the praises of this excellent book because munching hog has always been my deepest fantasy, one I live often and thoroughly. Hot dogs are steeped in mystery and lore, and their history is mired by oppression and socioeconomic trends. Loftus covers all of this as she chronicles her cross-country road trip, trying every notable dog she can get her hands on.
Raw Dog’s plot centers on Loftus as she embarks on a lengthy sojourn around the country with her boyfriend, her dog, and her cat. Loftus juggles her angles well: the overall history of hot dogs (including a harrowing section about how they are made), explorations of the hot dog’s place in American history, the socioeconomic conditions that made hot dogs so popular, the storied past of the hot dog joints she visits, and of course, the actual dogs themselves. The result is a creative nonfiction book functioning as a travelogue, pithy history book, and personal magnum opus all in one.
My guess is you read the title of this review and immediately decided whether Raw Dog is for you. That’s perfectly fine! Hot dogs aren’t for everyone (more for me)! I still love them even after the more cringe-worthy descriptions of their origins in Loftus’ book, and I’m hankering to try many of the best dogs she describes in the book—even if I’m sad she chided my hometown Chicago-style hot dog for its veritable garden of toppings. If by some chance you’re on the fence about reading Raw Dog, go for it. Loftus packs the book full of wit, and there’s no shortage of potty humor, as befitting a hot dog book. I didn’t count, but the word diarrhea appears quite a few times. Make of that what you will (I’m here for it).
A hot dog requires balance. The toppings must complement the meat within, and the bun must be sturdy enough to support the dreams of the meal’s maker. By extension, a book about hot dogs must do the same, and here Loftus succeeds beyond measure. Trust me, I broke out my ruler. Just when one section—perhaps a description of a specific dog or a story about a spat she had with her boyfriend—reached its climax, she would shift into something new, driving me along, as though I was demolishing the book like a footlong, bite by bite. Loftus has a talent for the balance required of a hot dog chef, and I appreciated the swiftness of her writing paired with her keen eye for when to transition from one section to the next.
Raw Dog will fill the hot-dog-book-shaped gap in your life. Jamie Loftus handles her subject matter with great care, deftly balancing her personal flair with a sharp, well-researched take on one of America’s greatest foods. Hot diggity dog, it’s so good.
Rating: Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs – 9.0/10