John Grogan - The Longest Trip Home


A Profile in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'm back home from nine days on the road, on a tour leg that took me from New York to Boston to Chicago to Las Vegas to Phoenix to Denver and back to Philadelphia. Whew, I'm ready to stay home and eat leftovers for a while. During my two nights in Chicago I received a visit from John Timpane, a Philadelphia Inquirer writer whom I had never before met despite my having worked there from 2002 to 2007. The poor guy got stuck flying all the way to Chicago to spend two hours interviewing me, then turned right around and flew back. Damn, and I was looking forward to having someone to hit Rush Street with. (Actually, my childhood best friend, Rock, who is a major player in The Longest Trip Home, was on hand to fill that function.)

At any rate, Timpane, himself a published author and poet, struck me as a skilled professional on top of his craft -- and believe me I have seen the total spectrum of journalists since Marley & Me came out, from the sublime to the sub-prime. His piece came out in today's Inquirer, and I thought it was fair and well done. I appreciated how it explored the connection between column writing and the memoir, and how one led me to the other.

It begins like this:

'Marley' led author to his new memoir

By John Timpane
Inquirer Staff Writer

CHICAGO - His dog has been very, very good to John Grogan.
He's living a writer's dream: In a luxury suite on the 30th floor of Chicago's sparkly Ritz-Carlton, plush furnishings, room service scrambling with the wine, urban spires all but leaning through the windows, the former Inquirer columnist is relaxing, beer in hand.

His 2005 memoir, Marley & Me, about life with his yellow Lab, Marley, has sold more than five million copies, and the movie opens Christmas Day, starring Owen Wilson as Grogan and Jennifer Aniston as his wife, Jenny (about which Jenny had few complaints).

There's Marley for adults, many kinds of Marley for kids (Marley: A Dog Like No Other; Bad Dog, Marley!; A Very Marley Christmas), not to mention dozens of non-Grogan Marley knockoffs in which people's lives are forever changed by their close relations with owls, cats, buffalo and parrots.

Now Grogan has written The Longest Trip Home (William Morrow, 352 pp., $25.95), a memoir of growing up in an Irish Catholic family, breaking away, and, through "gravitational pull," coming back full circle. Longest Trip, in effect, is the book Marley let him write. Both stemmed from a discovery Grogan made as a columnist: Readers crave personal connection.....

To read the entire story, please follow this link.


(And yeah, that top-floor suite was certainly sweet, but the untold story is that it was a free upgrade from a standard room, more a reflection on how much business my publisher, Harper Collins, does with the hotel chain -- and the state of the current economy -- than on anything to do with me. I definitely enjoyed it, though, especially the view of my beloved Lake Michigan, on which I spent my 20s sailing.)

P.S. - To read the complete reviews in The New York Times and Publisher's Weekly that Timpane references in the story, please click "Reviews" at the top of this page.

posted by John Grogan at 7:29 PM


Blogger mrln said...

Dear Mr. Grogan, I read Marley and Me, and laughed out loud. At the end I cried. I just finished The Longest Trip Home, and again you had me laughing--and crying. I grew up in the late 50's and 60's too, and was raised Catholic. Like you, I have struggled with that religion since my adolescence, so when I read a preview of the book, I preordered it inadvance of the publication date. I was hoping to find an answer to my doubts and problems with Catholicism. "Maybe", I thought, "John Grogan resolved it in some way".

I wasn't disappointed. The resolution wasn't what I'd anticipated, but it is a resolution. I too am so thankful for the gift of my Catholic upbringing. I listen to the old hymns I sang as a child (Robert Kochiss is a Catholic singer who is amazing)on my ipod and I consider that to be prayer. I also do Vedic Chanting and Yoga. I don't consider these disciplines to be at odds with each other. I can't help having my doubts about many Catholic teachings, but I try to do the right things.

I have come to know that God lives within each of us. I don't need communion to commune with God. But I still go, b/c of the memories, and the gratitude I feel. And the Catholic mass is beautiful.

God really does meet us where we are, and knows our hearts. It's OK to take our own circuitous paths: "My yoke is easy, my burden is light".

Few people could match the magnitude of your parents' devotion and ability to give, and the complete lack of martyrdom they demonstrated. How fortunate you were to have them. How fortunate we are that you shared your story with us. Thank you.

1:15 PM  
Blogger anaforu said...

This post has been removed by the author.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Lynda&Molly said...

I love the book & movie. when i seen the end i was in tears. it just remaened me of Molly who was my very 1st dog. she was like Marley at 1st.
Lynda hopkins

6:46 PM  
Blogger tomc said...

Mr Grogan. I just saw your movie. It was freaky as it mirrored my dog to a T. Including pooping in the ocean, the swimming pool and the vet bills. Here is our Obituary I sent to friends from Astro from September 2007. Thank you for reminding me of my super dog Astro. Astro provided material that you could have used. Enjoy....


Attached is a photo of our boy dog Astro, AKA known as: Astro the Wonderdog, Licky Boy, 'Stro, Cujo, AC.

After 12 years of posing for Christmas cards, hiding bones and licking everyone, Astro passed away today. Unlike many dogs in the world, Astro was never hungry and always had a warm, dry bed to sleep in. He truly had the dog's life. His name is associated with the dog on the Jetson's cartoon but actually his AKC registered name is Asteroid Meteor Shower and his spots resembled the Arcade game Asteroids.

We purchased Astro from Scamp's pet store in the mall in Lacey, WA. He was marked down 50% with a sign that stated "Clearance". Obviously, we weren't going to allow him to be marked down further. He had been at the store until he was 4 months old and needed to find a home.

The day we took him home, we didn't have a dog house. That day, it rained like crazy. Within hours of the first droplet of rain, Astro had a nice, top of the line Igloo dog house. (He later ate it.) That night, It was in the mid 30's. I slept by the back door to check on him. The next night, Astro had a top of the line heater for his Igloo dog house. That was the last night he slept outside.

During his first 2 years, he ate everything (rocks, bark, wires from the antilock brake harness on Terri's car, sheetrock, etc). Our Veterinarians seemed to all get new cars and boats as Astro was a regular visitor to the Vet. Scamp's fed him very little food as a puppy and he was malnourished. This caused him problems when he was older. Hip dysplacia and back pain as well as urinary problems haunted him as he got older. Since he was 4, he had been on special diet and medications.

At that time, Terri was going to school and I was working many hours so Terri and Astro became inseparable. Astro was very protective of Terri. When walking down the street, he would step forward as people approached and let everyone know that he was not going to allow anyone near his mama. Terri would take him to Long Lake in Lacey to swim. He loved running off with peoples cloths or shoes. When he arrived at the lake, kids would yell. GRAB YOUR STUFF! HERE COMES ASTRO!!

When he was two, we adopted Comet to be Astro's companion and to try to calm him down. He used to drag her around the yard by her collar and played hard. When she got larger, she became the Alpha dog and the queen of the household. He seldom challenged her authority and went with the flow.

For me, Astro just wanted to be with me. He loved when I did yard work. He was always one step behind me when I mowed the lawn . Back and forth - he was right there. On his last day, he walked with me as I mowed. He was a little slower but he was just as happy. When a friend and I built a storage shed, Astro was there making certain that the tool we needed or the building instructions were in his mouth. The problem was that he was attempting to digest them.

Today, Astro woke up at the usual time - really early due to Comet's weak bladder. He had a hearty breakfast followed by a nap that he didn't wake up from. I know he was dreaming about how great it was to be our pet and where all the bones were buried.

Today, scratch your dog behind the ear and think of Astro.

Tom, Terri and Comet

8:45 PM  
Blogger Eileen said...

Hi John - I know your book, Marley and Me, has been out for a while now, but I've only just discovered it. I started reading it at work in my lunch break - laughing out loud to the amusement of my colleague. Thankfully I finished reading it at home at the weekend - I was bawling so much I think I may have been sent home if I'd been at work!!!

It brought back so many memories of my own beloved four legged friends that have passed on over the years. I also had a (English) lab - a girl called Candy. She was a lovely, kind affectionate dog that liked to be under our feet - a very well behaved dog most of the time ... However, we had to have her spayed as she was a bit of a tart when she came on heat - she would scale the gate with the ease of an olympic athlete (a feat as she was normally quite lazy), or squeeze her bulk through a tiny hole in order to search for a young man! We would be frantic, searching all over the neighbourhood - eventually ringing the police and the RSPCA - and when she made it back (via a main road), she had a soppy grin on her face saying it was all worth it! She was fine once she was spayed ... We could have left the gate open and she wouldn't have put a toe through it! She was never destructive though - and thunder storms (we don't get that many) and fireworks never bothered her :-)

We too thought she didn’t have a protective bone in her body until, that is, a man came to measure our room for a new carpet. She was fussing around him as usual and all was well until he reached into his pocket - Candy leapt at him with a growl and I had to haul her back. He was (apparently) only reaching for a tape measure ... But who knows what vibes Candy got from him ... Only a dog could tell. I was SOOOO proud of her!

When she was about three years old we brought home a tiny (long haired chihuahua) puppy ... She could just about fit into the palm of your hand, but our big, daft lab was terrified and sat, shaking, in the corner of the room. We introduced them and, eventually, they became best of friends with Rosie sitting on Candy's back - to the amusement of anybody who saw them! Candy was so soft that Rosie could drag a bone from Candy's mouth without so much of a shrug from her. Rosie had her own little quirks - she loved to epilate people's legs. She would spend ages pulling the hairs from my hubby's shins with her front teeth - sometimes with a ping! In fact his shins have never recovered and he still has bald patches!

Our dogs have brought us so much joy and love over the years - when Rosie died some 7 years ago (Candy had already died a couple of years previous), we were so devastated that, even though the house was never a home without the presence of a dog, it took us four years before we could consider getting another one. We now have two Jack Russell's - a girl called Suzie and her brother, Jake - who will be 4 in June. I was determined that I would not let them into my heart the way the others had (we had two other dogs before Candy so we were definitely veteran dog parents), but they managed it within about 5 minutes of them moving in with us ... Of course!

Anyway, thank you for sharing Marley and your family with us ... it brought back lot's of memories, raised a smile and a laugh, and reduced me to floods of tears.

Kind regards, Eileen (Nottingham, UK)

PS: I am assuming that Lucky found a new home with your family?

5:16 AM  

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