Archive for January, 2006

Heading to Lexington

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

On Thursday, Feb. 9, I’ll be in Lexington, Kentucky, to discuss Marley & Me at a special event jointly sponsored by the Lexington Herald-Leader and Joseph-Beth Booksellers. As I understand it, the Herald-Leader newspaper hosts a sort of citywide book club, and it selected Marley & Me as its February pick.

A few days ago, Herald-Leader book critic Cheryl Truman wrote a great review of the book in advance of the event. Of all the media coverage I’ve received, this is one of my very favorite pieces, I suppose because Truman seems to get so completely what is going on in this book, and that it is “more than a dog book.” From Day 1, I’ve had a hard time describing Marley & Me in just a few sentences. Truman gets to the heart of the matter in a very few words. I should have hired her to write my press release!

Here’s her review:

Turns out the world is full of Marleys
By Cheryl Truman

Here’s the trick about the appeal of Marley & Me: It’s not about the dog.

Instead, John Grogan, author of the surprise best-seller and Herald Readers Book Club selection, says it’s about commitment and learning to be a family. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that what Grogan calls “the world’s worst dog” is the magnetic presence at the heart of that family. Whether climbing out of a car window on his way to be neutered or eating a valuable gold necklace (and yes, in one of the book’s funniest sequences, Grogan and his wife, Jenny, do get it back … eventually), Marley is the dog everybody wishes for, and one hordes of Americans have told Grogan they already own.

Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog is No. 2 on the New York Times’ best-seller list. Says its author: “No one’s more surprised by it than I am.”

Who would have thought a tear-jerking history of a young couple who adopt a raffish yellow Labrador puppy would become a publishing phenomenon? Not Grogan. He started the book a few weeks after Marley died (no, that’s not a spoiler, for those of you who have yet to read the book), intending only to write “a small story about my family.”

Grogan, now a Philadelphia newspaper columnist, had featured Marley’s antics periodically in his work. When he wrote a column after Marley’s death, reader response was overwhelming. It turns out that although not everybody will admit to being an old softie for four-legged furballs, a great number of readers view their pets with an overwhelming but seldom-acknowledged affection.

Grogan says he anticipated his book being picked up by a minor publishing house, with modest sales to follow. But Marley & Me is a rare bird in the overstuffed world of book publishing: literate and sweet, but not cloying. It’s a book that makes you cry — when your sides aren’t splitting with laughter. (I misted up three times re-reading the book while preparing to interview Grogan.)

Why does Marley & Me carry such cathartic emotional resonance? Because it takes dead aim at the anguished soul of the baby boomer: coupling, marriage, career, fertility, child-raising, home maintenance — and what it means to share it all with a pet who’s as imperfect as you are.

Grogan writes that Marley ate everything he didn’t chew or slash, and “chased his tail till the day he died.”

Even so, Marley sometimes rises to doggie greatness. Seeing Grogan’s wife, Jenny, after she suffers a miscarriage, the usually hyperactive Marley intuitively responds to her grief; Grogan comes upon the two of them to find Marley resting his chin on Jenny’s knees, and the little family of three grieves its loss together. While Marley might be a force of destruction whenever foul weather approaches, he also bonds with the three Grogan children as they arrive and grow — so much that when Marley dies, middle child Conor writes a note to go into the grave: “Through life or death, I will always love you. Your brother, Conor Richard Grogan.”

Grogan says Marley’s last gift was giving the children “a gentle introduction” to death.

Grogan is working on another book, this one starting pre-Marley, with Grogan’s relationship with his parents — “first separating, then coming back.”

But don’t worry about a Marley sequel. Grogan says his family’s current Labrador is a calm, sedate canine, “the anti-Marley.” In fact, he already has told her: “There’s no book in you, Gracie.”

Marley & Me … the Movie

Friday, January 27th, 2006

The word is out, broken in a story that ran in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer: The movie studio Fox 2000 has acquired the film rights to my book Marley & Me. Heading up the project will be producer Gil Netter, whose many credits include My Best Friend’s Wedding and the recently completed Flicka. I guess I don’t need to say how over-the-moon thrilled I am. Of course, when it comes time to cast a Labrador retriever in the role of the incorrigible, goofball Marley, I have plenty of candidates from my rapidly growing Bad Dog Club of America. A whole host of potential stars await your inspection under the “Share Your Stories” tab of this site.
Why do I think this just might end up being the most expensive movie ever made?

Here’s how the Inquirer ( described it:

Best-selling ‘Marley & Me’ is heading to the big screen
The studio Fox 2000 bought the rights to Inquirer columnist John Grogan’s book about his lovable dog.

By Michael Klein, Inquirer Staff Writer

Marley & Me, Inquirer columnist John Grogan’s best-selling tale about his sweet but goofy Labrador retriever, is in line to become a film.
Fox 2000, the studio that put former Inquirer columnist Jennifer Weiner’s novel In Her Shoes on screen last year, bought the rights, the studio announced yesterday.
Terms were not disclosed, but the deal was “substantial,” Grogan said. Such deals usually involve graduated payouts, sometimes in the high six figures or even low seven figures.
William Morrow & Co., an imprint of HarperCollins, published the book three months ago. It will be No. 2 on this Sunday’s New York Times nonfiction best-seller list, with 970,000 copies in print.
The book has been on the Times list for 14 weeks and has been published in 11 languages, the studio said. It is at the top of both the Publishers Weekly and Wall Street Journal lists.
The deal was made by Creative Artists Agency in conjunction with Grogan’s literary agent, Laurie Abkemeier of DeFiore & Co. Gil Netter, whose credits include Dude, Where’s My Car? and My Best Friend’s Wedding, is signed to produce.
Grogan, who plans to keep his day job, said Fox won out in bidding over “another major studio,” which he declined to identify.
Grogan said he learned of the deal last Friday while attending a book event at the Martin County, Fla., library. “I was mingling, and my cell phone rang,” he said. It was his literary agent, who had the film agent on the line. “He asked me to step outside and said, ‘We have two offers, and we need to talk to you.’ Fox was on the line holding, and they needed an answer.” During the call, Grogan said, “the other bidder called in twice. Meanwhile, a third studio called in for more information, but they wanted till Monday.
“We got the whole thing done in about 12 minutes.”

Everyone Loves Jenny

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

I was invited to Martin County, Florida, last weekend to participate in a large book festival known as BookMania, which brought in a host of authors from around the country. I was on a panel discussion with three wonderful writers — Maureen Corrigan, National Public Radio book critic and author of the memoir “Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading”; Carlos Eire, a professor of religion at Yale and author of the memoir, “Waiting for Snow in Havana”; and my old friend Scott Eyman, the Palm Beach Post’s book editor and a prolific non-fiction author whose most recent work is the biography of Louis B. Mayer, “Lion of Hollywood.”
We had a spirited conversation in front of a full house of about 400 people. Our 75-minute discussion was taped by C-SPAN2′s Book TV and will be broadcast in the next several weeks. (Watch my “Upcoming Events” page for airing times.)
But it was at the cocktail party the night before that I learned an important something about my own book. And that is that everyone loves Jenny. The cocktail party was a fundraiser for the Martin County library system, and it brought authors and patrons together to mingle and chat while eating really good appetizers and swigging blue martinis. So I’m wandering the floor with my wife, Jenny, who, as you know if you’ve read the book, plays a prominent role in Marley & Me. I was all geared up to talk with the patrons about my book. But, as it turned out, most of them wanted to talk less with me than with my wife.
One woman who had just finished the book rushed right past me, threw her arms around Jenny and proclaimed: “I just loved you!”
Another said, “You were my favorite part!”
Still another: “I am totally you.”
And another: “I went through the exact same thing.”
Uh, hello? Anyone want to say hi to the author?

This was not a new phenomenon. A fair amount of the mail I get centers on the irrepressible Jenny and her journey into motherhood — conceiving, miscarriage, pregnancy problems and forced bed rest, and the post-partum depression she suffered after our second child that nearly led us to find a new home for Marley. Many women, I am learning, have had similar experiences in their lives and related deeply to those passages in the book.
A question I often get at book readings is, “Did Jenny mind you writing so candidly about something so personal?” The answer is no; at least I don’t think so. To the contrary, she says she thinks it is important to talk about these things so women don’t feel they are alone with these experiences. And besides, Jenny is a writer, too, and knows that if you are going to tell a story, especially a story about yourself, you need to tell it honestly, and if you can’t, then you must find a different topic.

Last week, The New York Times cultural writer Dinitia Smith came to our house in Pennsylvania to interview me for a story that is in today’s (1/26/06) Times. (You can read it at )
Ms. Smith, who is a very charming and lovely person, also felt the need to comment on the Jenny Factor, telling me she thought Jenny really made the book. In fact, she told me three times. “Uh, and what about her charming, erudite husband?” I wanted to ask, but resisted. Gee, an author could get a complex….The Chopped Dog Chow Complex. :) I just hope all this attention doesn’t go to her head!

And more good news out of The New York Times. On the upcoming Nonfiction Bestseller List, Marley & Me climbs from #4 to #2. My heartfelt thanks to every last one of you who has bought my book and helped keep it floating up near the top of the list. As of this week, Marley & Me is in its 20th printing, with 870,000 copies now in print. It has certainly been the ride of my life.

Harry Smith & Me

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

This blog has been inactive for the past couple weeks, not because I’m a total slouch (well, ok, if the shoe fits), but because of technical problems that prevented me from posting. All is again well in bloggerland. So, hey, it’s time to catch up.
The most exciting news of late is that I got my five minutes in the national sun Friday morning when I appeared on CBS’s The Early Show. Harry Smith interviewed me about the book, the dog, the bestseller list, the whole surprise phenomenon — I guess it’s safe to call it that — that is Marley & Me. He was great. I thought I’d be nervous…oh, no pressure at all, just 19 gazillion people watching…but Smith was so warm and friendly he totally put me at ease. I actually forgot I was on TV, and before I knew it, we were done. As if the morning were not surreal enough, I appeared in the same half hour with Queen Latifah, movie mogul Jerry Bruckheimer and “the world’s only twin belly dancers.” As Smith put it after we went off camera, “Only on morning television.”
Smith impressed me for another reason. After my spot was over, I assumed I’d be whisked off the set and out of the way. But he leaned in close to me as his co-anchors were talking with the belly dancers across the set and chatted with me for another five or six minutes. He seemed sincerely interested in the book and what it has done and in me and what I plan to do (yeah, right, as if I have a clue). “This book is changing your life,” he said, and I guess he’s right; it is.

After I left CBS, I got snookered by my William Morrow editor, Mauro DiPreta. “Stop by the office so we can chat for a minute,” he said. So I swung into the HarperCollins building and got ambushed. He led me into a large conference room filled with people. And they were all holding flutes of champagne.(Good God, how do I get a job there?) It seemed half of the HarperCollins staff was present, starting with CEO Jane Friedman, Wm Morrow president Michael Morrison and publisher Lisa Gallagher. We all toasted Marley — multiple times. A lot of writers complain about their publishers, but my experience has been nothing but positive (beyond positive, actually) from Day One. And Friday’s surprise champagne party was just yet another great warm-and-fuzzy author-publisher moment of many that have come before it. What a great and talented bunch of people. And what a great and skillful job they’ve done publishing, marketing, distributing, and promoting my book. Hats off.

OK, now for an update on the bestseller lists:
This week I’m #4 at The New York Times, #3 at both the Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly (down from #1 at both last week), #2 at both the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post (up from #4 last week), and #2 at Book Sense, which reflects sales at independent bookstores. Marley remains the #1 nonfiction book on the Barnes & Nobles Store list.

And the last piece of good news: Today, my editor informed me that Marley & Me just went into its 19th printing, which will bring the total number of books in print to 735,000. Holy cow.

A New Milestone

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

On Friday morning, the Wall Street Journal’s new nonfiction bestseller list came out. And Marley & Me was …. (drumroll, please) #1. The top-selling nonfiction hardcover book in America last week, by the Journal’s count. A writer friend of mine, who is no stranger to the bestseller list herself, said, “That one goes on the wall.” You’re darned straight it does. As if that weren’t enough to give me a serious case of the butterflies all day, I then learned that I also had made #1 on the Publisher’s Weekly nonfiction list. And in today’s (Sunday, Jan. 8) New York Times, Marley & Me moved up from #4 to #3, its tenth consecutive week on the Times list.

The Book Standard nonfiction bestsellers list, which clumps hardcover and paperbacks together, placed me at #2 after the Oprah pick A Million Little Pieces. In its e-newsletter, Book Standard wrote:
John Grogan’s Marley & Me continues to climb the Nonfiction Chart as it moves one spot to No. 2 after selling 27,000 units last week. As a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Grogan wrote about his crazy dog, Marley. In November, he immortalized Marley with the book after the canine died in 2003. With Grogan currently on tour and USA Today calling Marley & Me the dog lover’s book of the year, Grogan’s ode to “the world’s worst dog” captured hearts over the holiday season (selling more than 100,000 units the week before Christmas) and looks to stay strong into 2006.

So Friday was a total rollercoaster ride for me. I’m just hanging on for dear life and seeing where the ride takes me — and how long it lasts. My literary agency sent a giant bouquet of red-and-white balloons to my house to help me celebrate (Thanks Brian, Laurie and Kate!). And my editors and publishers at William Morrow sent me a giant mounted print of the cover of Marley & Me (Thanks, everyone!). Every time I see that goofy dog’s big face looking out at me, I just start laughing. If he only knew what a splash the obedience-school flunkie was making.

Also Friday, an Associated Press reporter and photographer came to my house to interview me about the success of Marley & Me for a story that will run on the AP’s national feature wire. The reporter wanted my theory on why the book has sold so well. I wasn’t quite sure what to tell him, but I do know that I am receiving hundreds and hundreds of letters from readers who thank me for giving voice to the intense and richly satisfying relationship that exists between people and canines — a relationship many say they never felt they could freely express without risking rolled eyes from those who never experienced the connection.

One last note, many of you told me you were having trouble posting photos of your dogs on the “Share Your Stories” page of this site. Based on your feedback, HarperCollins has revamped the platform that the page runs on, allowing easier uploads directly from your computers. So you may want to give it another try… I just posted a photo of our new Lab Gracie there, and it worked just fine. — jg