An entertaining literary and historical romp through the world of dogs.



Wearing two hats as a psychoanalyst and cultural critic, Brottman (Humanistic Studies/Maryland Institute College of Art; Hyena, 2012, etc.) examines the nature of our relationship to our pet dogs.

The author trolls historical sources and literature and examines her relationship with Grisby, an 8-year-old French bulldog. “Rich insights can be gained from observing how people name their dogs, create personalities for them, address them...[and even treat them as] an alter ego,” she writes. Grisby's name was suggested by an old French film, Touchez pas au Grisbi (Don't Touch the Loot), which seemed like “a tough, macho way of saying ‘treasure.’ ” Brottman is unabashed in describing her affection for her treasure, kissing and petting him and stroking “his soft piebald underbelly.” Donning her scientific hat, though, she entertains the possibility that he does not reciprocate, citing the assertion of author John Bradshaw (In Defense of Dogs) that dog face-licks are not an expression of love but a way of sniffing out information about the recipient’s last meal. She even questions the behavior of Hachiko, celebrated in the film Hachi: A Dog's Tale, who was famous for his loyalty. For years after his master's death, Hachi continued waiting at the train station for him to return from work. It turns out, however, that after the story was featured in the Japanese press, commuters got into the habit of saving tasty scraps from their lunches to feed him during his nightly vigil. Brottman also reviews the roster of first dogs, beginning with George Washington's coonhounds, “Drunkard, Taster, Tipler and Tipsy." Famous literary lap dogs and their mistresses are also subject to her scrutiny—e.g., Dora in Dickens' David Copperfield, whose pampering of her dog, Jip, expresses her own “exasperating childishness”—as well as the cremation of Billie Holiday’s poodle, who was wrapped in “her best mink coat.”

An entertaining literary and historical romp through the world of dogs.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-230461-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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