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July 15, 2024

Review in Haiku: Marley & Me

By Katrina Stonoff

World's naughtiest dog
teaches young couple how to
be a family.

Marley & Me, by John Grogan, was the biggest surprise in this collection of books.

You've heard of Marley & Me; how could you avoid it? It's been everywhere for the past year or so: bookstores, grocery stores, gift shops. Grogan has created an entire line of Marley products: the book (hard and softcover), an audio version, an illustrated version, a leatherbound version, a special gift edition at Christmas, and now two books coming out for children.

I've avoided it. I mean, come on! A memoir about a dog?!!

Then I heard John Grogan speak on the Authors on Tour -- Live! podcast. He was witty and fun and charming.

He began by telling a story on himself. Several months before, he said, he'd been a nobody who wrote a regular column for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Then he found himself getting a cup of coffee at a book event where a woman took one look at him and just lit up. She hurried over, and he pulled out his pen to sign an autograph, thrilled to be recognized. Until she asked, "Excuse me, Sir. Where do you keep the Sweet 'n Low?"

So...OK. I can listen to anyone who can laugh at himself.

He went on to tell hysterical stories about Marley, the world's naughtiest dog -- one after another after another, many of which don't appear in the book. Like the day Marley tore through the screen door and disappeared. When he reappeared, several worry-filled hours later, he had a pair of women's panties in his mouth.

"That's the day I instituted the 'Don't Ask, don't tell' policy," Grogan said. "I didn't want to know."

Someone asked him what he thinks about the memoir form since the James Frey scandal, and he said, "I'm working on a sequel. It's called A Million Little Dog Hairs."

And then he said the one thing he could have said to get me to purchase the book: "This is less a book about a dog than a book about a couple. A young couple in love trying to figure out how to turn that into a permanent family."

I used to have a really naughty dog, when I was newly married in my early 20s. Star was a high-spirited black lab puppy who loved to dig holes and thought of a walk as a tug-of-war contest. So as I laughed at John and his wife, trying to train an unteachable puppy, I laughed as much at myself and my young husband as at them.

And apparently many of us have had the same experience. Grogan has a message board on his website dedicated to people's stories of naughty dogs, and they pour in from all over the world.

What Grogan captures, though, is not only the hilarious antics of an uncontrollable puppy. It's also the love relationship we have with our animals and how they become part of the brick and mortar with which we build our lives.

Marley & Me is hysterical and sweet and even sad in turn. It's refreshingly wholesome (this can be positive or negative, depending on the reader's state of mind). It's an honest and poignant picture of honorable, imperfect human beings trying to fumble their way through life.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Mr. Grogan is gorgeous in that "just an ordinary man who happens to take your breath away" way. And so is Marley.

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-01-21
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