For the past couple of weeks I've had a pile of books on the table by my bed, in various stages of being read. For the most part, they are books about dogs: A Big Little Life [Dean Koontz], Dogs Never Lie About Love [Jeffrey Masson], My Dog Tulip [J.R. Ackerley], The Art of Racing in the Rain [Garth Stein], A Good Dog [Jon Katz], Puppy Miracles [Brad and Sherry Steiger], and Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog [Ted Kerasote]. All but one are memoirs or anecdotal compilations. Several are written by notable authors with distinguished credentials as novelists, psychoanalysts, and professors.
The Art of Racing in the Rain is the only novel, and it is written from the dog's point of view. I tend not to read fiction, and the last thing I would ordinarily want to read is a book with a canine narrator. ["Bow wow," he said, wondering if the tail was wagging the dog.] Surprisingly, I managed to set aside my preconceived notions about storytelling and actually enjoyed having Enzo tell me his, um, tale.
I liked A Good Dog, an absolutely unsentimental description of life with a neurotic border collie who would have been medicated and locked away had he been human. Puppy Miracles is a series of anecdotal vignettes about people's precious pets that cries out for better grammar and judicious editing. Merle's Door, one of my favorites, is about life with a remarkable dog who chose his owner, a well known canine activist, outdoorsman and award winning writer, as he was about to embark on a wilderness river trip.
There are three other books in the pile: Animals in Translation [Temple Grandin], which was written by an autistic woman who overcame her disability to become a cattle, pig, and chicken whisperer; Dewey [Vicki Myron with Brett Witter], the true story of a nearly frozen kitten, jammed into the book return at a library in Iowa, who became an international celebrity; and, Loving Frank, by a former reporter, Nancy Horan -- not a dog or a cat story, but a fictionalized version of the not so clandestine love affair between the mythic and supremely self-absorbed Chicago architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the wife of one of his clients, Mamah Borthwick Cheney.
Of course, in keeping with our canine/feline theme, you could say that Frank liked to "cat" around on his wife and he "dogged" Mamah until she left her husband to be with him. You could also say that what happened to Mrs. Cheney, in the end, shouldn't have happened to a dog. After leaving her husband to be with Frank, Mamah was ax murdered, along with her children and some of Wright's associates at his Wisconsin home, Taliesin, by an insane former employee. The sordid story has been the subject of books, an opera, and I would imagine Nancy Horan's version will be optioned sooner rather than later, with Betty White and Matthew McConnaughey attached. Okay, Gerard Butler and Carmen Electra.
I haven't finished all the books; I'm about half way through most of them. I choose one to read depending on what kind of mood I'm in. My stepmother keeps finding me more to read, since she has an extensive library which grows every time she stops at Borders or Barnes and Noble. I guess they have an irresisitable 2 for 1 table by the cash register.
So what prompted me to share what books are sitting on the table by my bed?
You got me.