BookerTalk

Stirring tales inspired by wagging tails

“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.” –  humourist Franklin P Jones.

Authors have to scratch a living as well, yet many of them find cuddle- time with a canine friend a perfect antidote to hours tapping away at the keyboard. Here are a few authors with a pooch under the desk…

King pictured in his Bangor, Maine home office with Marlowe in July, 1995. Picture: Jill Krementz.

If it’s good enough for British royalty, it’s good enough for king of horror and suspense Stephen King, who shares Queen Elizabeth II’s love for the diminutive corgi.

Virginia Woolf loved cocker spaniels and her beloved dog Pinka was often by her side. She also wrote Flush: A Biography, a half-fictional account of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, which was named Flush. Woolf once said: “This you’ll call sentimental, perhaps, but a dog somehow represents — no I can’t think of the word — the private side of life…the play side.”

Steinbeck with his faithful friend Charley, the French poodle.

You probably know that John Steinbeck loved his poodle Charley, because Travels with Charley is all about him and Charley going on a road trip.

But his setter Toby deserves a special shout out too, because Toby ate the first draft of Of Mice and Men, meaning that Steinbeck had to start over from scratch: “My setter pup, left alone one night, made confetti of about half of my [manuscript] book. Two months work to do over again. It sets me back. There was no other draft. I was pretty mad but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically.”

Steinbeck’s French poodle, Charley, is proof that dogs are the cure for writer’s block. When Steinbeck felt like was out of ideas, he loaded Charley into his pick-up truck and drove across the country.

Pumpkin was Kurt Vonnegut’s yappy, shaggy little dog and near-constant companion. Vonnegut himself once said: “I cannot distinguish between the love I have for people and the love I have for dogs.”

Stein (left) with Toklas and Basket.

Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B Toklas had an affinity for white poodles, who were always named Basket. The pooch would be bathed in sulphur water each day and then Stein would make it run in circles in the yard until it was dry.

Tail end words from comedian Groucho Marx: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

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