Format: Audio (cds from library)
Narrated By: Susan Orlean
Original Publication Year: 2007
Genre(s): Nonfiction, Memoir
Rin Tin Tin was popular well before my time and the only thing I really knew about him was the name and that he was a German Shepherd. Ignorance was actually a nice way to enter this book about his “life and legend” but I was curious how Susan Orlean was going to fill up over 300 pages.
Turns out there is no problem filling up the pages as this is not just Rin Tin Tin’s story but also the story of the early years of Hollywood and television, and of how a dog came to represent so much for so many people including Susan Orlean. It’s well-researched and is obviously a labor of love and perhaps a little bit of fixation. It goes beyond the mundane facts of what is a very interesting story and examines the why of Rin Tin Tin’s iconic status and tries to dissect what drove the people connected with him.
Some of the most interesting parts of the book for me were the examination of how the nature of our relationship with dogs changed between the early and mid part of the century. Dogs went from working tools and transitioned into companions. Which made the fact that many families donated their pet dog to the war effort in World War II, (or perhaps more accurately loaned their dogs to the military) that much more fascinating.
One slight criticism is that I think having Susan Orlean read her book wasn’t a great choice. It works for certain authors, primarily humorous ones like Tina Fey, Bill Bryson, or David Sedaris, but Susan has a relatively monotone voice and her reading is mostly expressionless. I got used to it and it didn’t bother me that much but a better reader might have really made the book come alive.
Overall it was a good reading experience and I’m glad to have made Rinty’s acquaintance!