Excerpted from You're My Dawg, Dog by Donald Friedman. Copyright © 2013 by Donald Friedman. Excerpted by permission of Welcome Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
The Writer Interviews Himself!
How did You're My Dawg, Dog come into being?
I'm a born procrastinator and, like many writers, try different ways to avoid the hard work of writing—since you can only do so many loads of laundry, looking at your investments is too depressing, and the people you want to waste time with on the phone have lives. In this case, I was avoiding work on my just-completed new novel, Corrupted Humours, by taking long walks in the woods where I could pretend I was working out issues of plot and characterization, which usually ended up with my thinking about neglected chores or my bad investments, but one day I started thinking of dog words.
Must have been a long walk—you've got over 140 dog terms in the book.
There were a number of walks and extended periods of procrastination during which I made lists and called everyone I knew to ask if they could think of more. And, of course, I went to dictionaries, and trolled the Internet.
But what got you started on dog terms—why not women or bad investments?
I don't really know. Many of my woods walks were with a friend and Stella Pusateri, a black lab who was to chasing sticks what Lance Armstrong was to cycling—although I hasten to add that Stella never used anything stronger than those disgusting pigs' ears and bacon flavored treats—so maybe she was my muse. There were lots of other people with dogs around as well.
The book is a lot of fun to read, was it fun to write?
Absolutely. And, of course, way more fun than writing the novel. The best part was coming across colorful dog idioms and proverbs that had fallen out of use and realizing how applicable they were today.
Can you give me an example?
Sure. "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on." This is an old Arab proverb reminding us that great social forces are manifested despite the narrow-minded objectors who are always resistant to change—whether it's civil liberties, rights for women, new artistic expressions of all kinds.
"A dog in the manger" is one of my favorites. It describes someone who prevents others from enjoying a thing that he doesn't want or has no use for. It's from an Aesop's fable about a dog who ferociously keeps cattle from the hay he can't eat but has chosen to lie down on. As a lawyer I'm also especially fond of the expression "Even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and stumbled over" since it was the creation of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes when he was giving a lecture back in 1909 about intention and liability in the common law.
I love that you give us sources for these.
I loved finding them. I wasn't surprised to locate any number in Shakespeare's plays, but was astonished to find some that date back to the Greeks and Romans. "Every dog has its day" which sounds very contemporary makes an appearance in Hamlet but is connected with Euripides death by attacking dogs sicced on him by an enemy. "Love me, love my dog," meaning you've got to accept those attached to me, is attributed to Saint Bernard (appropriately enough) back in the 12th century.
Once you had your terms, how did JC become a part of the package?
I'd looked at a number of prominent illustrators' work, including JC's—whose name I'd gotten from Lena, my publisher. When I met with J.C. I knew immediately he was the one I wanted. He started sketching right in front of me and I was bowled over by his enthusiasm. Also, that he never came at the process of illustration directly, but found some slightly off way of presenting the idea. "Dog eared" is probably the quintessential example of that. Brilliant and quirky. I can't tell you how grateful I am that he agreed to do it. The book would be nothing without his art.
Have any idea who is going to buy it?
Anyone it's put in front of.