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Overheard: Authors on dogs
Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Gilbert, J.K. Rowling, Sue Monk Kidd
"The dogs bark but the carnival moves on." – Paul Begala

It’s no coincidence that many authors have dogs. After all, dogs are quiet, companionable and have a deep appreciation for routine, all of which fit into the writing life like a sleepy pup in a comfy bed. Here are some snippets gleaned from our reading list.


According to what she told Oprah, the dog made Sue Monk Kidd quit (in a good way): “I have an old dog named Lily and she’s a Black Lab. We got her as a puppy when I finished writing The Secret Life of Bees. My main character was named Lily and so that’s what we named her. She is 13 now, but she will come in and get me if I stay too long in my study. She’ll come put her head in my lap and tell me it’s time to stop.” Which, for this author, is a very good thing.


From J.K. Rowling's The Cuckoo’s Calling: “One of the earliest and most vivid memories of Robin’s childhood was of the day that the family dog had been put down. She herself had been too young to understand what her father was saying; she took the continuing existence of Bruno, her oldest brother’s beloved Labrador, for granted. Confused by her parents’ solemnity, she had turned to Stephen for a clue as to how to react, and all security had crumbled, for she had seen, for the first time in her short life, happiness and comfort drain out of his small and merry face, and his lips whiten as his mouth fell open. She had heard oblivion howling in the silence that preceded his awful scream of anguish, and then she had cried, inconsolably, not for Bruno, but for the terrifying grief of her brother.”


Roger, a Tahitian dog, is an unforgettable, fully drawn character in Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, The Signature of All Things. In a post on her Facebook page, Gilbert explained his significance and how his personality and name were inspired by a Balinese street dog: “The best thing about Roger is that his name wasn’t even Roger; it was actually ‘Raja,’ but my sweet Brazilian husband had misunderstood it. Thus, in our house, the poor little dog went from having a name of kingly Hindu majesty to being simply … Roger.

“A reader asked me, ‘Why did you have a dog in this novel?’ Two reasons: (1) To honor the memory of the real Roger, who was so absurd and who brought us so much joy, and (2) because I would never want to read a novel that didn’t have a dog in it.”


When asked by a Daily Beast interviewer what breed her new dog Sparky was, Ann Patchett replied: "I have no idea! But Annie Lamott said he was a Czechoslovakian circus dog. He looks like a dog from an Eastern European circus: a small, scruffy dog who you could imagine balancing on a red ball."


In a recent Vanity Fair interview, Stephen King was asked what person or thing he would like to come back as. His response: “A dog. A good one that gets lots of love and a hearth to lie on in the winter.”

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 77: Spring 2014

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