BAD DOG (A LOVE STORY)
By Martin Kihn (Pantheon, 213 pages, $23.95)
Early in the book, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Martin Kihn -- a man who knows nothing about dogs -- acquires Hola, a Bernese mountain dog puppy. Mountain dogs generally grow to the size of, well, a mountain. Hola, surprise, surprise, grows enormous, while also growing out of control, ignoring commands, sprawling, immovable, across the bed.
Add to this rowdy mix the fact that Kihn drinks way too much and that his wife, Gloria, is on the verge of leaving him, and you have a recipe for a surefire heartbreaking bestseller along the lines of "Marley and Me."
But then Hola begins attacking Gloria, and suddenly this funny book isn't so funny anymore.
"Bad Dog," for all its glibness -- and it is glib -- is a more serious book than "Marley." Kihn's descriptions of drinking and being drunk are harrowing and believable. When Gloria actually does leave, the scene is poignant, even though you know it's coming.
And as for Hola, her bad behavior proves Kihn's salvation as he devotes himself to her training, hoping, in the process, to kick his alcohol addiction and win back his wife. The book is set in New York, but Kihn now lives in Minneapolis, and he has a number of appearances coming up: Martin Kihn: 4 p.m. April 6, U of M Bookstore, Coffman Union; 7 p.m. April 12, Barnes & Noble Galleria, Edina; 7:30 p.m. April 14, Common Good Books, 165 Western Av. N., St. Paul; 2 p.m. April 30, The Bookcase, 607 E. Lake St., Wayzata.
LAURIE HERTZEL, BOOKS EDITOR
By Tina Fey (Little, Brown, 275 pages, $26.99)
Celebrity-penned memoirs almost never deliver the quality of musings and memories you expect for their price tags. Exception: The LOL-hilarious new book by Tina Fey, creator/star of "30 Rock" and winner of the 2010 Mark Twain Prize, American humor's highest honor. Reading it is like listening to a stream-of-consciousness monologue marathon from the mind of one of the funniest women alive. Equal parts memoir and femoir, she intersperses tales of theater camp, lame college boyfriends and playing Sarah Palin on SNL with Fey-style beauty advice -- "Aging Naturally Without Looking Like Time-Lapse Photography of a Rotting Sparrow" -- and comebacks to show-business chauvinism, as when both Jerry Lewis and Christopher Hitchens claimed women can't be funny: "It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don't like something, it is empirically not good. I don't like Chinese food, but I don't write articles trying to prove it doesn't exist." The chapter titled "What Turning Forty Means To Me" consists only of three sentences: "I need to take my pants off as soon as I get home. I didn't used to have to do that. But now I do." When I got to the last page, I actually turned one more and read the acknowledgements. That's how much I didn't want this book to be over.
KRISTIN TILLOTSON, STAFF WRITER