Archive for March, 2006
Friday, March 24th, 2006
If this blog has seemed quiet for the past several days, it is because I am on the road, making book appearances. In the last couple weeks, I’ve been in Atlanta,
Brooklyn, Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut,Denver, Boulder and now Detroit.
I flew into Denver a day early so I could go hiking in the mountains with my good friend Doug Brown, who is a writer at the Denver Post. The weather didn’t exactly
cooperate….cold and gray with a mix of freezing rain and snow…but we had a great trek nonetheless. But for this lowlander, the altitude was definitely noticed.
Saturday night at dinner, I had two beers and my head began to spin. I always knew I was a cheap date, but this was ridiculous. It was like someone had slipped me
a mickey. “No more alcohol,” Doug ordered. “Drink lots of water.” It did the trick. The next day, Sunday, as we set off on our hike at about 5,500 feet above sea level,
the thin air again got to me. I was winded before we were out of the parking lot. I reguarly trudge all over the Appalachian Mountains that run through Pennsylvania,
but this was a whole other game. No matter how much air I gulped, I couldn’t get enough oxygen. Meanwhile, Doug, who actually thinks it is enjoyable to RUN in this
oxygen-starved environment, was chattering away, breathing effortlessly. What surprised me was how fast I adapted. The first half mile was killer, the next merely
brutal. By the two mile mark, I was only slightly winded. And after that, I was fine. At every trailhead, signs were posted warning of mountain-lion activity in
the area. We plowed on regardless (don’t tell Jenny) and, except for some muddy paw prints (definitely NOT from big dogs), saw no signs of the large hungry cats.
Monday, March 20, was my birthday, and my always thoughtful HarperCollins publicist Seale Ballenger arranged to have a cake sent to my hotel room. Fortunately, he did not arrange to have 49 candles crammed onto it. Who needs those reminders? That night at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Highlands Ranch outside Denver, I walked in and 180 people greeted me by singing Happy Birthday. How did they know? I wondered.
Then someone reminded me that I had posted my birth date in the opening sentence of my autobiography on this website. (Honest, I wasn’t hinting!) Pretty darn sweet
of them. Of course, there were dogs in the audience barking along. Thank you, Denver, for making me feel right at home.
Also while in Denver, I was interviewed by phone as I drove to the Boulder Bookstore in beautiful downtown Boulder (I now understand the high property values) for
a Michigan-based podcast that is available for free online. If you have 20 minutes to kill and want to hear me blathering on about anything and everything relating
to Marley & Me, visit this link: www.spartanpodcast.com
Tonight at 7 p.m., I speak at Borders in Birmingham, Michigan, and Saturday I sign books from noon-2 p.m. at a Sam’s Club in Grand Blanc, Michigan, near Flint. Then
it is home, sweet home. I get a break until mid-April, when I’m again off, this time to Chicago and then the West Coast. To everyone I’ve met on the road, from the
Marley readers to the booksellers to the reporters, DJs and television anchors who have interviewed me to my drivers and escorts to Seale, Shari and everyone at
Morrow/HarperCollins who have made this tour come off with nary a glitch, let me say a big thank you. Everyone has been incredibly wonderful.
Tuesday, March 14th, 2006
If you have not discovered them yet, the Marley & Me message boards ( http://www.marleyandme.com/ubbcgi/Ultimate.cgi ) are worth checking out. Hundreds of readers and dog lovers have come there to share, praise, criticize, laugh, kvetch, tell funny stories, post photos, swap horror tales — you name it. Many of the entries are heartfelt, and some are particularly memorable and illuminating. Which leads me to a message I discovered today from a man going by the name of Beagleboy. He opens it this way:
“There is something in this book that has affected me even more deeply than Marley. It’s John’s relationship with Jenny. I left my wife and my two beautiful beagles 3 years ago tomorrow.” He then goes on to describe the aftermath.
By the end of his touching note, a note filled with regret and sadness for relationships lost, Beagleboy summarizes the central premise of Marley & Me in a way that had not occurred to me to do, but which makes total sense to me. This is how he put it: “When I cried uncontrollably as Marley aged and slipped away, I knew I was also crying for my family. The message of this book is, Love like a Dog.”
I like that. A lot. Love like a dog. Well, OK, maybe not without all the sloppy, slurpy tongue action (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but otherwise it does make a lot of sense. His piece is worth reading, and you can find it here: http://www.marleyandme.com/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000682.html under the heading “Come here and kiss me,” which is a reference to a scene in the book.
Sunday, March 12th, 2006
Today, the Sunday Telegraph of London published a really great piece on Marley & Me. The writer, Philip Sherwell, who is the Telegraph’s Washington bureau chief, came to my house with a photographer a couple weeks ago — and, of course, got totally slimed by Gracie, our new Labrador retriever. Despite the saliva showers, Philip wrote a positive piece, calling Marley & Me “the surprise publishing phenomenon of 2006 in America.”
Sherwell continued: “Grogan’s memoir tops the New York Times non-fiction list, with 1.2 million copies in print. The film rights have just been sold to an arm of 20th Century Fox and the book will be published in Britain in July by Hodder. It is an astonishing achievement for a book about a dog. But then this is not the standard animal-lover’s portrayal of their pet. Rather, with a mixture of slapstick hilarity and searing honesty, Grogan, a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, interweaves the antics of a rambunctious hound with his touching narrative of a young couple’s life together.”
Since Sherwell filed his story, Marley went into its 26th printing, taking the total number of copies in print up to 1.37 million. It’s now in its sixth straight week at #1 on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, and in its eighth straight week at #1 on the Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly lists. It’s also #1 on the Washington Post, Denver Post, San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times lists. I guess I need to stop saying, “Bad dog, Marley!”
To read the entire Sunday Telegraph story, here’s the link:
If that doesn’t work (I had some trouble), simply go to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ and type my name into the search field.
In other news, I just returned last night from five days on the road, doing book readings/signings and media appearances. On Tuesday, I was in Atlanta. Wednesday, Connecticut. Thursday, Brooklyn. Friday, Long Island. Saturday, Clifton, NJ. It was fun and I met a lot of really wonderful people. One of them even gave me a life-sized Labrador retriever doll to take home to my daughter, Colleen, who was totally thrilled. Thank goodness I wasn’t flying!
To read one Marley lover’s description of my New Jersey appearance, complete with photos, check out this thread on my message boards:
Saturday, March 4th, 2006
A couple Sundays ago, David Yellen, a New York-based photographer with an amazing portfolio, showed up at our house with an assistant, a makeup artist and a fashion consultant. The assignment: Get a family portrait of the whole Grogan clan with our new Lab Gracie. The client: People magazine. Of course, when People magazine calls, you don’t say, “Sunday is a day of rest,” or any such thing. You say, “Sure, come on over. We’re wide open.”
The fashion person’s job was to go through our closets and pick out clothes she liked, which she then pressed and made look way neater than they would ever look in real life. The makeup artist powdered our noses, and did cool things with Jenny’s hair — and my daughter Colleen’s hair, too. The shooting began at 10 a.m. and continued strong until nearly 3 p.m. We all broke midway through to eat Chinese carryouts left over from the night before.
The fashion person had me dressed in something I never, ever in a million years would actually wear — especially around my house on a Sunday. Jeans and a white t-shirt…no problem there. But over the t-shirt a starched dress shirt, unbuttoned and with the sleeves rolled up. Yep, I always traipse around the house on my day off with a dress shirt on. After several shots, David, apparently sensing my discomfort, said, “Do you just want to put on a favorite sweater or something?” Oh yes, yes, yes. I tossed on my favorite old black cotton sweater and felt much more at home.
We took a formal family portrait in front of the fireplace, and then he asked: “So, let’s put Gracie up on the kitchen table.” Now THERE is good behavior training! But we pride ourselves in our poorly behaved dogs, so up she went. Who cared if we were teaching her a new bad trait? Gracie stood on the table, looking slighly shellshocked that we were actually encouraging this, while the whole family gathered around her. At one point, we put an apple in her mouth (she was thrilled to oblige)and gathered around her with knives and forks in our hands. Sick, sick, sick….but pretty funny.
Just before breaking down his equipment, David took me outside on the deck behind my house for a few last shots. He said, “Why don’t you pick up Gracie and hold her in your arms.”
I said, “She weighs 70 pounds and is a squirm monster. You’re not serious?”
He said: “Let’s just try it.”
So I reached down, grabbed her like a sack of potatoes and hoisted her up, stomach exposed, paws jutting skyward. He clicked a few quick shots of the two of us. And that was it. Done at last.
The March 13 issue of People came out yesterday, and there on page 140, it was: A one-page spread with the headline: “Bad Dog Makes Good Read: How did a naughty Labrador retriever land his owner atop bestseller lists? John Grogan ponders the mania over Marley & Me.” Most of the page was taken up by the David Yellen photo. And the photo used? The one taken at the last minute out on the back deck: Me holding Gracie in my arms, her paws sticking out in all directions. She has a ridiculous look on her face, as if she’s saying, “Put me down, you sick freak! I’m not into this scene.”
So the bad news is Jenny and the kids, after giving their whole Sunday to the photo shoot, did not make the final cut. But I can’t disagree with the People editors. The photo of Gracie and me is a total hoot. And David Yellen is a great photographer. To view more of his work, you can visit www.davidyellen.com.