There are many books about dogs. Dogs and pets in general have always held literary and personal significance, and wook at dat fuzzy widdle face! At the same time, not every book about dogs is very good. There have been some great works done on the subject of important dogs – Rin Tin Tin, Marley and Me, the Art of Racing in the Rain. Alas, the Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals is not a great piece of non-fiction, dog related or otherwise. While I completely understand Professor Brottman’s love of her adorable dog, and while I think she had a pretty decent concept, the execution didn’t have an arc. Not having an arc would have been fine if the sections about each dog, the list includes a slapdash list including literary and dogs of writers and artists, had explored the significance of each animal to a decent depth. It wasn’t even really a book of essays either, which is what I had expected. But it was little articles about different dogs, what people said about those dogs, how she disagreed with those arguments, but her arguments tended to lead with how much she liked dogs and therefore disagreed with or made wild personal leaps about the relationships between dogs and their owners. It would have been one thing if she had actually incorporated some research into her train of thought,she does cite but I would have preferred she actually discuss some of that further in the text, but it was just her opinion with no real lead as to how she go there. Then there is Grisby. Grisby is not a famous dog. He is her dog. Which is where I gathered some of my confusion since the title was clearly taken from Great Gatsby, yet Grisby is not a literary character. He’s just a cute little dog that his owner likes, which is great! Trust me, I want everyone to like their pet. I just want them to figure out how their dog relates to the stories and thoughts they are communicating a little more solidly.
The book felt like it was rambling and I just couldn’t get into the structure of it at all. I think it was poorly used as a structural device. I found none of Brottman’s investigations went as deep or as complexly as I would have liked.
Mikita Brottman is a professor in the Department of Humanistic Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and a critic, author and analyst. She writes and teaches about the uncanny, abjection, true crime, esotericism, horror in film and literature, and the history of psychoanalysis. She lives in the old Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore, with my partner David Sterritt and our popular and charismatic French bulldog, Grisby. You can reach her at her website.
I received this book for free from HarperCollins and was not compensated for this review.