Good dog

My review of Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean ran in Solares Hill today. Here’s the brief version: I really liked the book. This despite the fact that I usually avoid dog books because of the inevitable problem of the dog’s lifespan relative to the people. I already felt that way and going through a dog tragedy of my own recently just strengthened the conviction. But this is a different kind of dog book — it’s really a social history of 20th century America, told through the lens of a German shepherd who started out as a silent film star and, through his onscreen if not biological progeny, continued in movie serials and TV shows to become part of the culture.

I think it’s Orlean’s best book. I liked the Orchid Thief although I thought that one worked better as a magazine story than a full-length book. This tale, with all its succeeding generations and interesting background and context (like the history of the German shepherd breed and the evolution of dogs from work animals to pets in American society) did not feel stretched out at all. I’m hoping there’s a documentary in the works — with lots of footage, including whatever is available of the original silent film star Rin Tin Tin, a dog so dominant in that new medium that when the first Academy Awards ballot was held in 1927, he won the most votes for Best Actor.

As long as I’m praising books I’ve read recently I’ll throw in a link to my recommendation of The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta, written for the Key West Library’s Staff Favorites page.

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Filed under book reviews, nonfiction, recommended reading

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