Unlike Klosterman, who I sought out on my own after a good friend of mine threw “Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs” at me in the high school cafeteria and said “Read this,” I did not come across this writer’s great work until my first year of university, when a journalism professor of mine recommended a reading of hers.
That article was “The American Male at Age Ten,” and much to the surprise of my professor, quite frankly I hated it. The story, that is, not the way that Susan Orlean magically transformed the character of Colin Duffy from a regular 10-year-old to one of the most interesting characters I came across that day. So, I opted to give Orlean another shot, she was after-all praised as one of the best magazine writers by this professor who I held in high regard.
As I continued to read more and more, I became fascinated with Orlean’s ability to take ordinary people, objects, characters, whatever, and transform them into something extraordinary. Her attention to detail, her ability to offer descriptions one would expect in a Cormac McCarthy or Stephen King novel, her research into seemingly knowing everything about whom she is writing, her wit, and her, as mentioned, ability to see beyond the scope of a normal journalist, and instead of finding something exciting, transforming a quirky nobody into a competitor for the Dos Equis man’s title as “Most Interesting Man in the World.”
Some of my favourite works by her include the story of a run-down south Boston neighbourhood turning the corner, a story about the most watched whale in the world, and perhaps the greatest, playing to the music-lover in me, a look at the Shaggs, an all-girl band from New Hampshire who, by ear are painful to listen to, but who Frank Zappa proclaimed as being better than The Beatles.
The piece I will leave with you today is none of the above, however, but instead the story of Biff Truesdale, a champion of the Westminster Kennel Club’s prestigious “Best Boxer” and “Best Working Dog” categories. It is a perfect example of how brilliantly she can turn a normal story about a showdog into something incredible.
So, please enjoy…Show Dog.