I was actually the first meanie to rate this book below three stars on Amazon (I rated it two, to be exact), but I'm honestly surprised at how well received it had been so far. Is it a terrible book? No. It's a bit dry. The author jumps around a lot (from writing about one dog to another) and her transitions are, more often than not, quite weak.
Though Ms. Brottman makes some pertinent observations (about dogs, people, and our relationships with each other), I just feel that this book could do with some reorganization. In addition to her weak transitions from talking about one historical/literary dog for another, the chapters seem mostly nonsensical and her insertions of the story of her own dog (Grisby, of course) are often jarring. Perhaps instead of trying to write a book that was part memoir and part historical/literary study, Ms. Brottman should have focused on one or the other.
Why two stars instead of just one? Well, besides the aforementioned pertinent observations, it is clear that The Great Grisby is well-researched and I enjoyed learning a lot about these "literary, royal, philosophical, and artistic dog lovers and their exceptional animals". 2/5 stars.
"'Unable to love each other...the English turn naturally to dogs.'"
"...there's something repressed and neurotic about those whose deepest feelings are for their dogs."
"'I loved her; I wished her forever happy,' he admits, 'but I could not bear to lose her. I could not bear even to share her. She was my true love and I wanted her all to myself.'"
"...evidence suggests that love for animals encourages a broader sense of general empathy."
"Dogs make very handy transitional objects because we can use them as outlets for all kinds of different emotions. In my case, Grisby forms a bridge between my inner life and the 'real world' out there, to which I'm increasingly ambivalent. On the one hand, I want to function successfully as an adult in the wider world; on the other hand, I want to stay at home, regress to infancy, and keep the outside world at bay."
"Dogs like Hachiko are symbols of canine commitment, affirming our confidence not only that dogs are capable of intense devotion but also that we are worthy of inspiring it."
"'I sit outside with Lucille day after day,' writes Knapp, 'and I feel that torrent of emotion - joy and delight and surprise along with self-doubt and anxiety and confusion - and I think: This is love, pure but not simple.'"
"'You can criticize me, my wife, and my family, but you can't criticize my little dog.'"
"There's something about people's relationships with their dogs that seems essentially honest."
"...if we can be unhappy without knowing it, what does it really mean to be unhappy?"
"'...we may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling of the meaning of it all.'"