-- Elizabeth Lowry in The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Advice to would-be writers: Do not own a dog. John Steinbeck's setter cost him two months' labor on "Of Mice and Men" in the mid 1930s when one night the pup tore apart the half-finished manuscript. The text on the savaged pages, as we learn in Celia Blue Johnson's "Dancing With Mrs. Dalloway," was so badly mauled that Steinbeck was forced to rewrite a large portion of the book. Jack Kerouac was doing equally well with "On the Road" (which he was typing on sheets of paper taped together to avoid having to reload his typewriter) until his housemate's cocker spaniel chewed up a few feet of the scroll. One almost expects to discover that Joseph Conrad's Chihuahua was responsible for the extensive revisions to "Heart of Darkness." As abetters of literary inspiration, dogs clearly rank very low—unless you happen to be John Steinbeck, who took along a canine companion for "Travels With Charley" in 1960. By then the setter had perhaps wisely been replaced by a poodle.