Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The story of a beastlet

Book: Marley and Me

Author: John Grogan

Published: 2005 (HarperCollins)

Pages: 289

Anytime an author writes about a pet, I go “Awwwwwwww…” without thinking, okay? And then I reach down to scratch my own furry bundle of neuroses behind her ears, maybe feed her a piece of sandwich because that’s really all she wants in life.

So I didn’t go into this book objectively at all. But I still wasn’t impressed.

It’s a good portrait of life with a dog. Grogan knows how to place the right amount of importance on ordinary things to make them important details in the story he’s telling. But it’s really obvious that he used wry jokes to gloss over some of the tougher details that might’ve made this less generic. He and his wife seem to lead a fairly (but far from completely) charmed life in which Marley the overzealous lab wrecked playful havoc, which sounds adorable on the page but probably was a pain in the ass to deal with in real life.

The biggest example that jumped out at me was their professional lives. They were both newspaper reporters in Florida, and he does wax nostalgic about it, but he never gave me any sort of picture of the office or work he loved so much except near the end when he confessed to using his work gathering column ideas as an excuse to wander around the state while getting paid.

That DOES sound like an awesome job. Tell me more about it, and tell me anything—anything at all!—about how you dealt with such a time-consuming bundle of puppy while both of you were working full time. I got none of that, except about how his wife Jenny would come home for lunch and play with the dog then, prompting me to wonder what their hours were. And there is one sentence—ONE—that talks about how Jenny struggled to balance raising two young children and a dog while downshifting her work to part-time and home-based.

I just spent more words on their careers than Grogan did.

Anyway, it was cute and read like the wind after my two weeks of struggling with cardiovascular biomechanics, but it wasn’t original. That’s a bit of a cardinal sin around here.  

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