February 23, 2006

Unlikely dog tale tops best-seller list

By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The tale of a rambunctious puppy
is proving its staying power in the dog-eat-dog world of U.S.

With more than 1 million copies in print, "Marley and Me --
Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog" has struck a chord
with dog lovers who are laughing and crying over author John
Grogan's account of his yellow Labrador retriever.

The story is more than a recounting of Marley's antics that
include chewing through doors, expulsion from obedience school,
clawing paint off concrete walls, devouring furniture,
swallowing valuable jewelry and swooning over soiled diapers.

The excitable, good-natured lab also knows how to protect
the family's tiny children and consoles the couple when they
grieve over a miscarriage.

The nonfiction book has been on The New York Times
bestseller list for 17 weeks. It seems likely to break the
barrier of a million copies sold, a feat generally accomplished
by no more than a dozen books each year in the U.S. hardcover
non-fiction market.

"It's really not just a dog book," Grogan said in an
interview with Reuters.

"Before Marley, our life was about career, relationship,
and ourselves," said Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia
Inquirer. "He helped us shift from an egocentric life to
something more generous."

In the book, Grogan wrote: "Marley taught me about living
each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the
moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the
simple things -- a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap
in the shaft of winter sunlight.

"And as he grew old and achy, he taught he about optimism
in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship
and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty."

Grogan said he realized the appeal of Marley's story after
the 13-year-old dog died in 2003, and he wrote about the
experience in his newspaper column.

The column evoked responses from some 800 readers, 20 times
the volume of mail his columns usually generated.

Readers now post their own "world's worst dog" stories on
his Web site. At his book signings, some people bring their
dogs, some seek his advice but most just want to share their
dog stories, he said.

Grogan's publisher Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, set
an initial print run of 50,000 copies. But as sales took off,
it has gone back to the press for 24 runs, with 1.17 million
copies in print as of February 22.

Fox 2000 has bought the movie rights to the book and plans
to put it on a fast-track production schedule, a Morrow
spokesman said.

Bob Wietrak, vice president of merchandising for the Barnes
& Noble chain of bookstores, said the book's success was due to
its focus on broader human themes. "It's about the human
condition, it's about relationships, it's about family."