Part history book, part memoir, The Great Grisby written by Oxford-educated, Mikita Brottman, PhD (Thirteen Girls) is a fascinating exploration of how dogs have changed people and the world in myriad ways. Brottman acquired her first dog, Grisby—a lovable, French bulldog—when she was close to 40 years-old. Her eight-year "love affair" with Grisby encouraged her to better understand their mutual affinity and the many roles dogs have historically played in the lives of others who share their loyal companionship. In the process, she unearthed a trove of information about the ineffable bond between notable humans and their canines.
Over 26 chapters, Brottman analyzes many stories including those of avant-gardes Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and their string of standard poodles; poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her inseparable connection to her cocker spaniel, Flush; Philosopher Schopenhauer and his attachment to all his dogs, always named Atma; Freud's late-life fondness for chows, especially females; Picasso and his curious relationship with Lump, his beloved dachshund; and aristocratic dogs including Prince Albert's greyhound, Eos, and Russian Princess Tatiana and Ortipo, the French bulldog gifted to her by a grateful soldier. Also included are references to the dogs of politicians and in-depth depictions of canines as featured in literature from Charles Dickens to Albert Camus.
Interspersed throughout short chapters, the author shares lively, personal anecdotes about Grisby and how he served as "a buffer...and a bridge" keeping Brottman connected to a world she concludes is generally more empathic because of human-canine kinship.
The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals by Mikita Brottman
Harper, $25.99 Hardcover, 9780062304612, 288 pp
Publication Date: October 7, 2014