January 9, 2013 · 1 Comments
By Ron Howell:
I recall that toward the beginning of her book The Puppy Diaries, Times top editor Jill Abramson mentioned a New York Magazine article by John Homans, which was titled “The Rise of Dog Identity Politics.”
I was pleased to see that, because I had read Homans’s illuminating piece and considered it to be, not only unusually honest, but also truly brilliant.
The disappointment came as I continued with Puppy Diaries and saw how painfully it contrasted with the wisdom and insight contained in Homans’s writing.
Apart from the section where Abramson shares an episode in which she was seriously injured when hit by a truck – a section that showed such courage I thought it would have been a better book - Puppy Diaries gave me no wider vision into the origins and consequences of our dog obsession.
Homans, on the other hand, did precisely that. He offered windows to understanding through copious research and even self examination. It was subtitled The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man’s Best Friend, and the positive reaction to it was such that it was recently turned into a book, What’s a Dog For?
I was certain – given that The Times under Abramson never misses an opportunity to slip dog stories onto its pages – her paper would pay some attention to the Homans book.
But the contrast in treatment between Puppy Diaries and What’s a Dog For? was revealing. It reminds us once again of the old truism, that freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.
The Abramson book was reviewed glowingly by Alexandra Styron – yes, the daughter of William – and is here.
The paper’s review of Homans’s book, with a much drier and shorter treatment penned by Walter Vatter, who, we learn, has an upcoming book of his own about his bluetick coonhound, is here.
Last year yours truly wrote an article for the Columbia Journalism Review‘s Web site, about how The New York Times under Abramson has been “Going to the Dogs” and that is here.