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The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals

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A scholar, psychoanalyst, and cultural critic explores the multifaceted role dogs play in our world in this charming bestiary of dogs from literature, lore, and life “Learn how dogs have enriched the lives of poets, artists, kings, writers, and many other notable people in this fascinating book about dogs in literature and history. Who knew that Sigmund Freud, the father of A scholar, psychoanalyst, and cultural critic explores the multifaceted role dogs play in our world in this charming bestiary of dogs from literature, lore, and life “Learn how dogs have enriched the lives of poets, artists, kings, writers, and many other notable people in this fascinating book about dogs in literature and history. Who knew that Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, unknowingly had the first therapy dog? The Great Grisby is a wonderful book about the special bond between humans and dogs.” —Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human While gradually unveiling her eight-year love affair with her French bulldog, Grisby, Mikita Brottman ruminates on the singular bond between dogs and humans. Why do prevailing attitudes warn us against loving our pet “too much”? Is her relationship with Grisby nourishing or dysfunctional, commonplace or unique? Challenging the assumption that there’s something repressed and neurotic about those deeply connected to a dog, she turns her keen eye on the many ways in which dog is the mirror of man. The Great Grisby is organized into twenty-six alphabetically arranged chapters, each devoted to a particular human-canine union drawn from history, art, philosophy, or literature. Here is Picasso’s dachshund Lump; Freud’s chow Yofi; Bill Sikes’s mutt Bull’s Eye in Oliver Twist; and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel Flush, whose biography was penned by Virginia Woolf. There are royal dogs, like Prince Albert’s greyhound Eos, and dogs cherished by authors, like Thomas Hardy’s fox terrier, Wessex. Brottman’s own beloved Grisby serves as an envoy for sniffing out these remarkable companions. Quirky and delightful, and peppered with incisive personal reflections and back-and-white sketches portraying a different dog and its owner, The Great Grisby reveals how much dogs have to teach us about empathy, happiness, love—and what it means to be human.


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A scholar, psychoanalyst, and cultural critic explores the multifaceted role dogs play in our world in this charming bestiary of dogs from literature, lore, and life “Learn how dogs have enriched the lives of poets, artists, kings, writers, and many other notable people in this fascinating book about dogs in literature and history. Who knew that Sigmund Freud, the father of A scholar, psychoanalyst, and cultural critic explores the multifaceted role dogs play in our world in this charming bestiary of dogs from literature, lore, and life “Learn how dogs have enriched the lives of poets, artists, kings, writers, and many other notable people in this fascinating book about dogs in literature and history. Who knew that Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, unknowingly had the first therapy dog? The Great Grisby is a wonderful book about the special bond between humans and dogs.” —Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human While gradually unveiling her eight-year love affair with her French bulldog, Grisby, Mikita Brottman ruminates on the singular bond between dogs and humans. Why do prevailing attitudes warn us against loving our pet “too much”? Is her relationship with Grisby nourishing or dysfunctional, commonplace or unique? Challenging the assumption that there’s something repressed and neurotic about those deeply connected to a dog, she turns her keen eye on the many ways in which dog is the mirror of man. The Great Grisby is organized into twenty-six alphabetically arranged chapters, each devoted to a particular human-canine union drawn from history, art, philosophy, or literature. Here is Picasso’s dachshund Lump; Freud’s chow Yofi; Bill Sikes’s mutt Bull’s Eye in Oliver Twist; and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel Flush, whose biography was penned by Virginia Woolf. There are royal dogs, like Prince Albert’s greyhound Eos, and dogs cherished by authors, like Thomas Hardy’s fox terrier, Wessex. Brottman’s own beloved Grisby serves as an envoy for sniffing out these remarkable companions. Quirky and delightful, and peppered with incisive personal reflections and back-and-white sketches portraying a different dog and its owner, The Great Grisby reveals how much dogs have to teach us about empathy, happiness, love—and what it means to be human.

30 review for The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I absolutely loved this book and as an ardent and unashamed life-long lover of dogs I am not surprised that I did either. Not only does Brottman understand the complex relationships people have with their dogs, she is able to explain it and show it for the beautiful thing that it is. Of course, the fact that she has such a relationship helps but still, she uses many examples from past and present to show that while society may mock the close relationship of pet and owner, it is just as natural a I absolutely loved this book and as an ardent and unashamed life-long lover of dogs I am not surprised that I did either. Not only does Brottman understand the complex relationships people have with their dogs, she is able to explain it and show it for the beautiful thing that it is. Of course, the fact that she has such a relationship helps but still, she uses many examples from past and present to show that while society may mock the close relationship of pet and owner, it is just as natural as any other we have and not (necessarily) a replacement for supposed 'failures' elsewhere. As a dog lover and one who treats dogs as furry little people (which I have never been ashamed of doing...I often get more sense from a dog!), I love Brottman's take on this relationship and how she shows that everyone, however cynical, can fall foul of doleful dog eyes. If your not a dog person/lover, then this book could prove a useful insight into our world, especially if you know someone who is and just can't get your head around it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Full disclosure: I was chosen a First Reads winner, and received an uncorrected proof of The Great Grisby in the mail. (The book actually just became available about one week ago.) That in no way influenced this review. If I wanted to write a tribute to my dog, I hope I'd be witty enough to do what Mikita Brottman has done, and incorporate a series of A to Z essays featuring other dogs... with plenty of space for additional thoughts and tales about my own. Brottman's dog, Grisby, is a French bull Full disclosure: I was chosen a First Reads winner, and received an uncorrected proof of The Great Grisby in the mail. (The book actually just became available about one week ago.) That in no way influenced this review. If I wanted to write a tribute to my dog, I hope I'd be witty enough to do what Mikita Brottman has done, and incorporate a series of A to Z essays featuring other dogs... with plenty of space for additional thoughts and tales about my own. Brottman's dog, Grisby, is a French bulldog who seems to be a perfect companion and definitely a source of information and observation. Whether the other dogs named in the A to Z stories are real (as in historical) or literary, famous or not, the author has done her research and managed to organize the stories into a sensible collection, complete with notes and a bibliography. Dog lovers will adore this clever volume, which includes wonderful stories and anecdotes. (I enjoyed reading it, and I'm allergic to dogs!)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Embry

    I can’t imagine what it would be like for a person never to have had a dog until well into her fourth decade. But before pitying author Mikita Brottman for this deprivation, please note that once she met the dog love of her life, she not only fell head over paws, but devoted herself to compiling a history of similar love affairs in The Great Grisby. Its eponymous hero, Grisby himself, a 30-something pound fawn piebald French bulldog, romps through the book, joining hundreds of perhaps more illus I can’t imagine what it would be like for a person never to have had a dog until well into her fourth decade. But before pitying author Mikita Brottman for this deprivation, please note that once she met the dog love of her life, she not only fell head over paws, but devoted herself to compiling a history of similar love affairs in The Great Grisby. Its eponymous hero, Grisby himself, a 30-something pound fawn piebald French bulldog, romps through the book, joining hundreds of perhaps more illustrious but not better-loved pooches of all breeds and mixes of breeds. Brottman is a scholarly professor and a psychoanalyst not afraid to address the question dog lovers – or perhaps female dog lovers – dread: Does our love for dogs mean we’re repressed neurotics, unable to form healthy relationships with members of our own species? Her study, she writes, with scholarly deliberation, has led her not to an answer but to more questions. “Why is a woman’s lover for her lapdogs considered embarrassingly sentimental when men bond so proudly with their well-built hounds?” And: “Married women admit they sleep with their dogs, and married men deny it. . . who’s lying, and why?” Brottman organizes the 26 chapters of The Great Grisby alphabetically (by dog names, naturally), from misanthropic German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s Atma (make that Atmas, because Schopenhauer gave each successive dog the same name) to the Zémire of French poet and intellectual Antoinette du Ligier de la Garde Deshoulières. This doesn’t mean Brottman writes about only 26 dogs. Each chapter’s namesake dog is a springboard into discussions of similar dogs and their evolution both in conformation and human culture. The uncharacteristic disloyalty of Richard III’s greyhound Mathe inspires not only a history of the greyhound breed, but an exploration of the more common legends of dogs loyal to death to their masters and their alter-egos: man-killing dogs and supernatural dogs of doom. The chapter entitled “Robber” (for Richard Wagner’s gigantic Newfoundland) becomes an excavation into the composer’s shady ethics and less than savory marital adventures, as well as a celebration of assorted canine musical muses. I expected even Brottman would be stumped to find a famous dog whose name started with X, but she does – Xolotl, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s Mexican hairless (and avatar of the Aztec god of the underworld), a connection that lets Brottman range from the role of dogs as guards and guides of the dead, to serving, literally, as sustenance for the living. And also as the familiar demons of witches and sorcerers. “I’d like to think of Grisby as my familiar,” Brottman writes, “but opinions are mixed on whether familiars can be pets. . . According to one source, a spirit that appears in the form of a bulldog is always accursed or accusatory, but anyone who believes this nonsense has obviously never met Grisby.” In the end she concludes, “in most cases, a dog is just a dog. Thankfully, Grisby is neither shaman nor guru nor archetype, but himself – my living, snorting companion. That’s magic enough for me.” Still, Grisby serves as a loveable, undoubtedly doggy mascot for his own book. Written in prose both erudite and sprightly, readers don’t have to be dog lovers to lap up The Great Grisby. But be warned, if you’re not hooked on canines when you start, you may find they’ve stolen your heart before you reach the final page. And the answer to whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing to be totally besotted with members of the canine persuasion is simply – who cares? Just give us our dogs!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Beth

    I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins. The Great Grisby is an ode to man's best friend, unveiled in twenty-six chapters, the A to Z chapters each named for a famous dog. These include both fictional and historical dogs from Prince Albert's greyhound to Elizabeth Barrett Browning's spaniel. Each chapter is a chance for the author to ponder her own, but also human's relationship, with dogs. Despite their importance in our everyday life, the dogs of well-known individu I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins. The Great Grisby is an ode to man's best friend, unveiled in twenty-six chapters, the A to Z chapters each named for a famous dog. These include both fictional and historical dogs from Prince Albert's greyhound to Elizabeth Barrett Browning's spaniel. Each chapter is a chance for the author to ponder her own, but also human's relationship, with dogs. Despite their importance in our everyday life, the dogs of well-known individuals are often overlooked by history. For example, despite reading several biographies about Queen Victoria's husband Albert, I never knew that he had a beloved greyhound named Eos, so beloved that the queen commissioned several portraits featuring the dog. I also never knew that George Washington had coonhounds named "Drunkard, Taster, Tipler, and Tipsy; he also had American staghounds named Sweetlips and Scentwell" (76-77). I was surprised to learn that it was a "commonplace racket in Victorian London" to steal dogs in order to force their owners to ransom them back (50). At times, I felt like Brottman's analysis of dog's significance went a bit too far. For example, concerning David Copperfield, she argues that "by breaking all the rules, Jip is a living embodiment of Dora's unruly id. The dog enacts everything Dora strives to repress" (86). Brottman also breaks down pet owner's propensity to animate their dogs; "to speak in the voice of your dog is to engage in an act of self-deceiving ventriloquism, allowing you to be at the same time both beloved child and adoring parent. In this voice, you can buffer complaints, elicit apologies, confess wrongdoings, and mediate outlawed or forbidden impulses" (61). I don't necessarily disagree with her assertions, however, I felt her book was stronger when it relied more on historical examples than delving into deep significance to explain further what we know - people love their dogs. There was something very about poignant reading this book, while sitting beside my own dog, because there is something inexplicable and ferocious about our relationship with our pets. "We keep our dogs to the very end, she observes, even when they are 'mange-ridden, scabbed with eczema, half-paralyzed, cataracts in both eyes - not to mention that dreadful old dog smell.' [...] Dogs adore us steadily and without change until the end, which makes it easy to love them back the same way" (190). And yet, no dog compares to your own dog, as each dog owner is secretly sure "in the knowledge that our own dog is unquestionably superior" (207).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    I am definitely the targeted audience for this blend of essays and tribute to the author’s beloved dog. There are plenty of great lines and quotes here for the dog lover - and they start from nearly the first page, like this great one: “What makes a dog exceptional is his owner. In other words, any dog can be exceptional if he’s loved enough.” Brottman sets up her book as an A-Z of dogs - some more well-known than others. It’s a fascinating and well-written book full of anecdotes, meandering sid I am definitely the targeted audience for this blend of essays and tribute to the author’s beloved dog. There are plenty of great lines and quotes here for the dog lover - and they start from nearly the first page, like this great one: “What makes a dog exceptional is his owner. In other words, any dog can be exceptional if he’s loved enough.” Brottman sets up her book as an A-Z of dogs - some more well-known than others. It’s a fascinating and well-written book full of anecdotes, meandering sidetracks and interesting facts that beg to be shared with others. It’s a nice blend of dogs, too, and their breeds (though obviously the French Bulldog lover will relish all of the parts devoted to Grisby). There is a pretty heavy slant though towards the English 19th century dogs, so some readers may be disappointed that there aren’t more current examples in this collection. I think it is a missed opportunity to include some more modern literary dogs considering how much the attitudes towards dogs has changed in recent years. Each essay though, leaves room for the titular Great Grisby, and Brottman’s love for him is quite evident (though it is funny that she claims not to be a dog-person, but rather a Grisby-person). I am quite sure that this book was just as much fun to research and write as it is to read. I think it makes for a great gift to the literary dog-lover, too! Maybe a follow-up with some more modern examples is in the works!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cara

    It can definitely come across as self-indulgent and distinctly non-literary to write a book about your dog, but Mikita Brottman deftly avoids this problem by instead writing a series of essays about alphabetized literary dogs, worming her own dog into the story into the process. It could have easily turned out badly, but I was honestly surprised by how well this turned out and by how much I enjoyed this book. I do think you probably have to be a dog lover to enjoy it, but if you are, then you'll It can definitely come across as self-indulgent and distinctly non-literary to write a book about your dog, but Mikita Brottman deftly avoids this problem by instead writing a series of essays about alphabetized literary dogs, worming her own dog into the story into the process. It could have easily turned out badly, but I was honestly surprised by how well this turned out and by how much I enjoyed this book. I do think you probably have to be a dog lover to enjoy it, but if you are, then you'll be happy to read about the 26 famous dogs in this collection, along with Mikita Brottman's own Grisby (may he rest in peace). FYI - got this book as a Goodreads Giveaway

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

    This was a very well done and extremely interesting read! It concerned dog owners throughout history. It was wonderful to see how much in common we have with many well known people through the ages in regards to the love and treatments of our beloved dogs. The author also added many things about her own dog and her love for him which was so heartwarming. I was especially impressed with how much research went into this terrific book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    This is one of the best dog books I've read in a long time. I love the author's take on the relationship between a dog and it's owner is so original. I loved reading about all the different famous dogs as well. The book was also full of numerous books and stories about dogs which I am excited to read as well. This is one of the best dog books I've read in a long time. I love the author's take on the relationship between a dog and it's owner is so original. I loved reading about all the different famous dogs as well. The book was also full of numerous books and stories about dogs which I am excited to read as well.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary Whisner

    Literate, literary, thoughtful, entertaining.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sundi Pierce

    As a devoted dog lover myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the stories about dogs throughout history, literature and art.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I’m pretty sure the original subtitle to this book was “Sick sh!t people have done to loyal companions in literature and life—oh and here are some cute anecdotes about the author’s dog.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Linda Franklin

    I love reading anything by Mikita Brottman, and also I am crazy about dogs, so I was thrilled to buy this thoughtful, revealing book. While Brottman says she got her first dog at about 40, I was luckily born into a dog-loving family, in 1941, and have NEVER been without a dog except for a few years in NYC when I contented myself with a cat. Most of my dogs have been found, by me, and I have two now, to whom I read aloud partial pages at night, because they like my voice. I put their names in pla I love reading anything by Mikita Brottman, and also I am crazy about dogs, so I was thrilled to buy this thoughtful, revealing book. While Brottman says she got her first dog at about 40, I was luckily born into a dog-loving family, in 1941, and have NEVER been without a dog except for a few years in NYC when I contented myself with a cat. Most of my dogs have been found, by me, and I have two now, to whom I read aloud partial pages at night, because they like my voice. I put their names in place of actual names in writing. There are 16 chapters in this book, each about a dog she found in art, literature, history. I loved the chapter about Alexander the Great's dog... Peritas. Each chapter also includes Grisby...Brottman's wonderful little chubby active armful of French Bulldog. She loved him to pieces, and I got to meet him at a reading one time. IF YOU LOVE DOGS YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. There is so much reality in it. It is so wonderful to read about dogs from even a thousand plus years ago who were loved. We are lucky as humans to have them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    A beautiful combo here to enjoy the weekend after Thanksgiving. I Love books, essays, dogs and famous folk gossip about their dogs. What is not to love here and I didn't even mnd the bits where the author threw in stuff about his dog. I LOVE Canine books. A beautiful combo here to enjoy the weekend after Thanksgiving. I Love books, essays, dogs and famous folk gossip about their dogs. What is not to love here and I didn't even mnd the bits where the author threw in stuff about his dog. I LOVE Canine books.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Charity Still

    Full Discloser: I hate books like this, so I’m probably not the right person to review a short story/information type book... but I can usually make it farther then three chapters... and I simply couldn’t bother myself to read anymore. If short stories with in-depth information and flowery language for its own sake is your thing, go for it!

  15. 4 out of 5

    L.A.

    Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Great Grisby' by Makita Brottman. Dogs have been noble companions to both the rich and the poor. One of the characteristics that make them so popular is the loyalty and love they shower on the owner. Because of the power of such devotion, many consider their animal much as they would their children. The devotion goes in both directions, often in ways that may seem strange to those who have never had a pet, or that have not connected in such a way. Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Great Grisby' by Makita Brottman. Dogs have been noble companions to both the rich and the poor. One of the characteristics that make them so popular is the loyalty and love they shower on the owner. Because of the power of such devotion, many consider their animal much as they would their children. The devotion goes in both directions, often in ways that may seem strange to those who have never had a pet, or that have not connected in such a way. In The Great Grisby by Mikita Brottman, we follow the history of such bold tales of the love of these creatures, from kings and princes, to artists and philosophers. Women as well as men tell the tales of love and throughout the telling we are also given snippets of the author about her own companion, Grisby. There is an amazing array of information, much taken from journals and even news of the day. The feelings are jettisons around the globe through letters between friends and family, all extoling the virtues and care of their companion. While each story is different to the other, there is the over lying dependence on these creatures for that devotions often lacking elsewhere in their lives, or in some cases just and addition of devotion. When the animals age and pass one, there is such a tragedy of feeling, and when the grief has passed and with the addition of a new dog, in many cases this animal may actually be names exactly the same as the deceased. You will find many of the antics and stories somewhat odd and even occasionally over the top, and yet if you know any dog lovers you already know that there is a special bond, that is shared between the pet and their owner. Often tongue in cheek, the author gives us glimpses into her own feelings, and we find ourselves wondering what Grisby is up to as we follow the history of dogdom through the ages. If you love animals and are an aficionado of dogs this is a wonder look at the trials and tribulations of those in the past as they come to terms with the differing personalities of the pets they call their own. The antics and the treatment seem sometimes over the top, and to an unwary dog fan you may mutter a few ewes. The true dog person does not find any of the situations that you read about as out of the ordinary, and yet I believe there are certainly degrees of dog people. There is a spectrum of behaviors from both the animal as well as their owner. You will find yourself interested in the differing patterns and attitudes that become oddly entertaining on closer inspection. If you enjoy history and animals you will find this to be an unusual treat. This would be a great book for a discussion group, giving rise to questions and answers, as well as antidotes from those in the know of how the animal is often the real owner and not vice versa.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marisol

    I'm so glad to find out I'm not the only one with a French Bulldog that laughs! I thought we were crazy. I found myself relating so many experiences the author relates to our own little Bully, Ember. Love how all the history was seamlessly woven into the life of little Grisby. I was so sad to learn he passed away but he was beloved for sure. I'm so glad to find out I'm not the only one with a French Bulldog that laughs! I thought we were crazy. I found myself relating so many experiences the author relates to our own little Bully, Ember. Love how all the history was seamlessly woven into the life of little Grisby. I was so sad to learn he passed away but he was beloved for sure.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Linda Morelli

    As a source of bountiful facts and keen observations on the unique human-dog relationship, The Great Grisby is a must read book for all dog owners. See my full review at: http://myshelf.com/miscellaneous/13/g... As a source of bountiful facts and keen observations on the unique human-dog relationship, The Great Grisby is a must read book for all dog owners. See my full review at: http://myshelf.com/miscellaneous/13/g...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ymDF... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ymDF...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Helen Geng

    Re-read April 2020

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    As I read this book about Grisby and his owner and famous dog-owners and their dogs throughout history, I kept thinking how enjoyable it must have been to research this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I won this book through Goodreads First Reads. Review to follow.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Murphy

    Review can be found on my blog at www.the-family-french.webs.com Thank you for reading! Review can be found on my blog at www.the-family-french.webs.com Thank you for reading!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Daniela

    What a great book. I received this via Goodreads and as a dog lover I enjoyed it from start to finish. Well researched and written in an engaging manner.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elaina

    I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway and thoroughly enjoyed it. A great read for any dog lover.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    A review of this book will be posted closer to the release date.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    It was neat, fun, educational and interesting! Cannot ask for much more than that.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  29. 4 out of 5

    cherie foshee

  30. 5 out of 5

    sharon marshall

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