About a week ago, I offhandedly mentioned to my mother that I had just started reading the new paperback Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend and, despite the fact that I’d never heard of the dog before, I was really enjoying it. I have never known my mother to be at a loss for words, but for once, she was suddenly and surprisingly silent. When I asked if everything was ok, she simply responded “I loved watching Rin Tin Tin. Your grandfather, my dad, did too. It was something special that we shared.”
Since finishing the book, I have heard dozens of similar stories about Rin Tin Tin and the unique ways that he touched so many different people’s lives. Susan Orlean’s book vividly explores this connection that generations of people have shared, not only with Rin Tin Tin, but with all of the animals that we choose to share our lives with. This is a book that literally bursts with discussion topics, making it the obvious choice for this week’s book club recommendation.
In Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend, Susan Orlean masterfully traces the journey of Rin Tin Tin from a puppy on a French battlefield to an international brand, a set of ideals, and a legacy that has passed down from generation to generation. The narrative delves into the history of dogs in the military, obedience training and animal domestication, shifting social mores, film and television history, all while keeping a steady hold on the personal stories of Rinty and the people who loved and trained him.
Lee Duncan, a young American soldier, first stumbled across the newborn Rin Tin Tin in a bombed out animal shelter in the fields of France. Lee took Rinty back to America, and, through a twisting path of luck and devotion, Rin Tin Tin became a Hollywood icon. The idea of Rin Tin Tin grew from the values embodied by a single dog in silent films into something much bigger than Lee had perhaps imagined—into an idea, an emotion, a character residing in national and international consciousness.
Simon & Schuster has prepared a fantastic Reading Group Guide to help focus book club discussion, and here are some of the questions that I now can’t help think about every time I see someone walking their dog or discussing their pets:
- What do you think of the notion that it is fundamentally strange for human beings to have pets in the first place? What do you think it is that draws us to the animals that we love so much?
- Since reading the book, has it changed the way you think about: the power of movies? the roles that animals have played in human warfare? your own personal relationship to animals?
- Do you think that anything or anyone can ever last forever?
Visit Susan Orlean’s website.
Follow Susan on Twitter. (Named one of the top Twitter feeds by Time magazine!)
Explore the Rin Tin Tin feed on YouTube.
Win up to ten copies of Rin Tin Tin for your book club!