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Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean Review

Title: Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

Author: Susan Orlean

First published September 27, 2011

336 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 9781439190135 (ISBN10: 1439190135)

Rating: 3.52


Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean tells the remarkable story of a dog who became Hollywood’s biggest star. From being found in the ruins of a bombed-out kennel in France during World War I, to being trained by Lee Duncan and transported to Los Angeles, Rin Tin Tin’s journey is nothing short of extraordinary.

This book is not just about the legend of Rin Tin Tin, but also explores the special bond between humans and animals. Susan Orlean’s writing takes readers on a fascinating journey through the history of entertainment, entrepreneurship, and the evolution of dogs from working animals to beloved family members.

With a richly textured narrative spanning ninety years, readers will discover the birth of obedience training, the rise of Hollywood, and the role of dogs in war.

About the Author

Growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, my childhood was happy and uneventful. I attended the University of Michigan for four years and had a great time.

Afterwards, I moved to the West Coast and landed a job as a writer in Portland, Oregon. Although I didn’t have any experience or credentials, I had a strong passion for storytelling and creating sentences.

Writing quickly became my love, and I’ve been doing it ever since. After Portland, I moved to Boston and wrote for both the Phoenix and the Globe.

I then made my way to New York and began writing for various magazines. In 1987, I achieved my dream of publishing my first piece in The New Yorker, where I’ve been a staff writer since 1992.

Editoral Review

Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, published on September 27, 2011, is a non-fiction book narrating the remarkable story of an American film and television star canine. This compelling biography peels back the curtain on Rin Tin Tin to reveal him as something more valuable than a Hollywood icon.

He becomes Orlean’s focal point, illuminating the author’s passion for uncovering the enthralling personalities and stories of the past.

Orlean is an accomplished journalist, and her literary style is distinguished by her personal voice and commitment to thorough research.

She brings her unique perspective to Rin Tin Tin, treating the book as a search for meaning and a way to connect to our collective cultural heritage. Orlean probes the relationship between humans and animals, the mythology of Rin Tin Tin, and his enduring popularity today.

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend has cemented Orlean’s reputation as a chronicler of overlooked histories that capture the public imagination. The book details the life of Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd rescued from a bombed-out French kennel during World War I by an American soldier named Lee Duncan.

Duncan saw the potential for the dog’s talents and trained him for show business, casting him in his own films and launching his career. Rin Tin Tin went on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars during the silent film era, shaping the public’s notion of dogs as loyal protectors and human companions.

The book also recounts the dog’s contributions to the military during World War II as a morale booster and mascot. Orlean sets up Rin Tin Tin’s story against a backdrop of cultural and societal change, such as the rise of mass media and the evolving role of dogs in American households.

The book also explores the human-animal bond and how Rin Tin Tin became a symbol of American resilience, loyalty, and patriotism. The dog’s story reflects the cultural aspirations of those who made him famous, as well as the country’s transformation from a rural to an urban society fascinated with celebrity.

Orlean confronts the readers with the themes of identity, myth-making, and nostalgia for vanished times. This book is more than a study of a dog’s celebrity, it is a meditation on the ways in which humans attribute complex emotions and motivations to animals.

Orlean recognizes that Rin Tin Tin’s story is a repository for exploring the timeless human ideas of heroism, loyalty, survival, and redemption. Her prose is evocative and empathetic, interweaving her own experiences with her encounters with Rin Tin Tin enthusiasts and family descendants.

The book’s greatest asset is its ability to tug at the heartstrings of anyone with an appreciation for the emotional depths of the human-animal bond. Readers of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend are likely to find themselves invested in the dog’s story, as well as those of the humans in his life.

Even those who have not heard of Rin Tin Tin before are likely to be moved by Orlean’s skillful prose which conveys a great depth of emotion in a concise and elegant way. However, one of the limitations of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend is its tendency to follow rabbit holes and overlook its central themes.

At times, Orlean’s quest to uncover every detail about her subject dilutes the book’s focus, and there may be too many details that distract the reader from the narrative’s flow.

Overall, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend is a powerful and moving story that is likely to appeal to readers of all ages who enjoy a well-told story of courage and resilience.

Orlean’s writing is of an exceptional quality, and her passion for her subjects is infectious. Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend is a unique biography that sheds light on the complex relationship between humans and animals while telling the story of an extraordinary dog that still captures the public imagination today.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars.