David Fox's Reviews > Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean
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's review
Nov 20, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: reviewed, owned-books
Recommended for: I would not recommend it
Read from March 25 to April 02, 2014 , read count: 1

Yet Another Man Bites Dog Story

Rin Tin Tin. Flicka. The Black Stallion. Lassie. Mr. Ed. Flipper. Eddie. Buck. Arnold Ziffel. Need I continue? Our television landscape is littered (okay, not littered, how about populated) with the memories of animals – some pets, others not – who have crept their way into our consciousness & in many cases, our hearts. I admit it. I’m a sucker for all of these four-legged wonders. I probably spent hundreds if not thousands of hours while a child, adolescent & teenager, entertained & absorbed by these wonderful characters. My first love affair was with The Black Stallion by Walter Fury. What a horse – 16 or 17 hands – enormous. The scent of his musk emanated from the pages as you flipped through them. Old Rinty was cast in a similar light. Born afar, transported to the U.S. of A. in an almost mystical way. Rises from his proverbial ashes to become more than a legend, a staple of our psychic understanding of what makes America great. It is against that backdrop that I picked up Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orleans. Buoyed by the ebullient reviews by respected authors on the book’s cover I hunkered down to read what I thought would be a trip down memory lane. Well, I guess if your idea of a stroll down memory lane ends in taking a snooze then this this might be the book for you.

At first I struggled to understand what happened, or more accurately, what did not that ended up disappointing me to the extent it did. I mean it contained all of the requisites guaranteed to please a guy who already believed in the mythical qualities of this genre-bending, generationally adaptive German Shepherd. It boasted a cast straight from a formulaic, satisfying Saturday matinee movie; there were heroes & villains & plot twists & intrigue; there were happy endings, sad endings, betrayal, acts of loyalty – the book was literally screaming with all of the ingredients required to deliver more than a satisfying read. But, for me anyway, it was all for naught. And then, when I read Orlean’s Acknowledgements she shared a fact that clicked for me. She spent ten years writing this book. Ten years! Why did it take so long? This is not a 500 page plus epic. It’s not a towering piece of fiction searching for the right character/plot nuances. And then it struck me – she got lost in the details. This was the classic not seeing the forest through the trees. She failed to adequately develop a dramatic theme line to hook me. There were all sorts of possibilities. She could have treated this as a tragedy; on the flip side of the coin, it could have delighted me as a comedy of errors. It violated the cardinal rule of story-telling – show, don’t tell.

I still have this image of Rinty flying through the air, leaping into celluloid history, making me feel like a kid all over again. Unfortunately, Ms. Orlean’s literary flight fell short, leaving Rinty barking at his past & me wondering what the fuss was all about.

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Reading Progress

03/25/2014 marked as: currently-reading
04/02/2014 marked as: read

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