Tuesday, November 13, 2012
G7 Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend
Author: Susan Orlean
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Year it was published: 2012
He believed the dog was immortal.
So begins Susan Orlean's sweeping, powerfully moving account of Rin Tin Tin's journey from abandoned puppy to movie star and international icon. Spanning almost one hundred years of history, from the dog's improbable discovery on a battlefield in 1918 to his tumultuous rise through Hollywood and beyond, Rin Tin Tin is a love story about "the mutual" devotion between one man and one dog." (Wall Street Journal) that is also a quintessentially American story of reinvention, a captivating exploration of our spiritual bond with animals, and a stirring meditation on mortality and immortality.
Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Saturday Night and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award-winning film Adaptation. She lives with her family and her animals in upstate New York and Los Angeles. For more, visit SusanOrlean.com and Twitter.com/susanorlean.
The title promises a biography of the dog named Rin Tin Tin, the life he has lead as well as he as the private type dog. The chapters include "Forever," "Foundlings", "The silver screen," "heroes," "the phenomenon" and last "The leap" It starts out with a general outline of the book, and then the author takes us step by step through how she met people and how Rin Tin Tin started to enjoy his life as an "immortal" dog and so forth.
"He believed the dog was immortal. 'There will always be a Rin Tin Tin,' Lee Duncan said, time and time again, to reporters, to visitors, to fan magazines, to neighbors, to family, to friends. At first this must have sounded absurd- just wishful thinking about the creature that had eased his loneliness and made him famous around the world. And yet, just as Lee believed, there has always been a Rin Tin Tin." (3) The book itself is a biography, and the author tries to portray the immortality that Rin Tin Tin acquired from the 1918 up until 1950s and perhaps even now to some extent. The popularity has existed until past 1950s, but then it faded away and perhaps the author hopes to inspire the newer generations with this tale of a dog that has existed from 1920s.
It's not only Rin Tin Tin that the author discusses. She mentions as well as discusses Rin Tin Tin's predecessors and competitors (Lassie) she also discusses the little known history of having to send dogs to fight into WWII. What I found shocking is the Nazi's paradoxical view, that they tried to be humane to animals while cruel to human beings. This part can't leave my mind and has made me sick. I found the history aspect to be fascinating, from times that Hollywood developed to the 1960s. And the kind of merchandising that was enjoyed by Rin Tin Tin can be similar to Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight and perhaps Fifty Shades of Gray series. Also as well, the author doesn't invent or get "creative" with Lee Duncan. She doesn't set him as a main character and she keeps everything strictly factual.
This book doesn't have direct footnotes, but the author does cite sources and where they might have come from, using both print and online sources. The primary sources include Lee Duncan's diary, and Daphne's book, as well as a bit of Anne Frank's diary (the main entry where she talked about Rin Tin Tin and how she wanted to have him as a dog.) She alos uses movies sources and I recall that she goes into great deal about them in some of the chapters.
I wonder too why the author wrote and published Rin Tin Tin at this particular time and period. I do have some guesses or theories as to why: one is the atmosphere of today where everything seems darker than in the past generations and where nothing is clear. My other reason is that she was trying to capture voices that would soon be forgotten and will soon die. She also has been trying to find herself through writing about Rin Tin Tin. (I can see that she is a very passionate writer.) I also would guess that in some cases she has been trying to provide a memento for the baby boomer generation who has grown up with Rin Tin Tin and is trying to give them something fond to remember.
Quick notes: I won this book on goodreads.com thus this review will appear in its entirety on goodreads as well as the blog
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)