Gary Taylor's Reviews > A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog

A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz
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Oct 22, 09

Read in October, 2009

Sappy pooch portrait produces cornball canine cartoon

Dean Koontz's attempt at nonfiction in A Big Little Life is a presumptuous and predictable love letter to his dog. Reading it was like being trapped at the office Christmas party by a co-worker whose kid made the little league all-star team over the summer.

But I found an escape. Just when I considered tossing the thing a third of the way through, I realized I actually wanted to see how the master of suspense would handle the death of his beloved Trixie. All dog books and movies climax with the death of the dog. So I knew it was coming, and I knew the tears would flow. But I wondered: Would Koontz actually give her a Viking's funeral pyre? Would he see a chariot arrive to carry her soul to doggie heaven? Would he take Trixie to a taxidermist so she could sit in his living room the rest of his life? Anticipation left me giddy. As a result, I began instead to read the rest of A Big Little Life as a comedy. Suddenly it started to work for me.

If you need a good laugh and decide to read this book for that, I won't spoil the ending by revealing the agony of Trixie's death. As a work of humor, I'd rate it four dog biscuits. As a serious memoir, however, it suffers from the author's naivete and self-indulgence. I found it naïve to believe he is the only one who has experienced these emotions with a dog and self-indulgent to believe anyone else should care. I often winced in embarrassment for this marvelous wordsmith as he gushed at length about such mundane mutt matters as Trixie's toilet habits, recounting them like they belonged in the Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.

But then, Dean Koontz has plenty of fans who will care. If he publishes his grocery list, he'll find thousands of buyers for that, with many of them eager to post five-star reviews on Amazon. In this case, he's done only a little more. I just hope he donates all the money to the SPCA.

As a fellow author and dog owner, I respect Koontz's skills at both. I just think he got a little carried away with this experience, and I can't resist poking fun. But readers should understand how much sap they'll have to endure while reaching any nuggets of insight in A Big Little Life.
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