John Grogan - The Longest Trip Home


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Fact V. Fiction about My Former Column

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Earlier today I received an email at johngroganbooks.com from a man who enjoyed the Marley & Me movie but has not yet read the book. He hit upon a misperception left by the movie that I think now is as good a time as any to correct. Writes the emailer Baileysdad: "In the movie it was portrayed that a lot of your columns in Florida were about Marley. I think with the movie out, it might be nice to put those columns in book form."

Yes, the movie does give that impression, but it is not accurate. It is one of the many small fictions the scriptwriters took (with my knowledge and consent) to better help pack my nearly 300-page book into a two-hour movie. In the movie version, my character, played by Owen Wilson, is a somewhat hapless journalist relegated to covering methane leaks at the local garbage dump and not having much luck making a mark journalistically. Then he is talked into writing a column (another fiction: reporters kill to get a shot at their own column, and indeed I competed against several other candidates to get mine). Grogan is still not quite finding his voice as a columnist until .... yes, Hollywood drumroll... he starts writing columns about his crazy dog Marley. The columns are a huge hit with readers and Grogan more or less makes Marley a regular subject of his column. See how the world's worst dog makes the man?

That's the film version. In real life, I was a senior writer on my paper's enterprise team, writing long take-outs for the Sunday front page. Then I tried out for and received the position of metro columnist. As a metropolitan columnist, the great majority of my columns played off the news. One day I might be at a murder scene, the next at a tax hearing, the day after that in a classroom or out in the Everglades. Into this mix I sprinkled personal essays based on experiences in my own life. And of those personal essays, a handful were about about life with Marley. The total sum of Marley columns from my ten years as a columnist, both in Florida and Philadelphia, is about a dozen. Looking back on it, that was about the right mix. There are hardly enough Marley columns to fill a pamphlet, let alone a book.

And that leads me to a related topic, which isn't very pleasant for me. My former newspaper, the (once great but of late teetering on the edge of bankruptcy) Philadelphia Inquirer has published two unauthorized collections of my columns I wrote while employed there. They published them without my consent or involvement or even advanced knowledge. I had no say in the selection or the cover or title, and receive no compensation. Despite that, the appearance to the casual shopper in any bookstore is, "Oh, look, John Grogan has a new book out." After all, my name and the words "author of the bestseller Marley & Me" are prominent on the covers. It's a reasonable assumption. At every book signing I do, some poor soul asks me to sign one of these. I regretfully have to tell him or her that I cannot sign the books because they are not mine. (The Inquirer owns the copyright as it does with all staff-generated work). I feel bad having to disappoint someone who just plunked down their hard-earned cash, but I just can't endorse this cynical repurposing of my earlier work. In my opinion, the actions of the Inquirer and Vanguard Press in publishing these two collections is not only disrespectful and cheesy, but pitiful -- a desperate attempt by a once-proud but now failing enterprise to glom on to a former employee's success. Who knows, maybe next the Inquirer and Vanguard Press will want to publish my collected dry-cleaning bills.

It's a free country, and I won't tell you what to buy. But if you see a book with my name on the front and the words "selected writings from The Philadelphia Inquirer," you'll know you've arrived in the land of glom. And if you have any doubts, turn the book over and read the very, very fine type on the back cover.

That's it for now. Over and out... john

posted by John Grogan at 11:34 AM

26 Comments:

Blogger Shorty said...

Wow! I'm so glad I didn't purchase that book. I thought about it time and time again, but never realized it wasn't really YOUR book. Thanks for the info!

9:29 AM  
Blogger k9keeper24 said...

John,

What about the book, "Help, I've Fallen & Need A Good Laugh" by John Grogan, is this in the same category as the other 2 books mentioned, or just an author with the same name? I have never heard you talk about this book, just the other two have been mentioned in other blogs. Thanks for the information.

Lisa
Detroit

6:58 AM  
Blogger Tina said...

Pretty much why I would never buy the book to read it. Although I'd love to read more of your work- the way you explained it previously was enough for me to pass the book by.

But please ... are you working on something new? :>

I know! I know! One just hit a few months back.... but I've read it :>


Tina

3:52 PM  
Blogger John Grogan said...

Lisa, "I've Fallen and Need a Good Laugh" is written by another John Grogan. I haven't read it but have heard it is Christian inspirational humor. Definitely not me! :)
-- John

6:24 PM  
Blogger Ernesto G. said...

John,

I loved Marley and Me (both the book and the movie).

I also enjoy reading your posts. They are always interesting and fun to read.

There is always a sense of "goodness" in everything you write. Even when you write about unpleasant things, like the situation with the Philadelphia Enquirer.

Now, I have a question. Everybody is now talking about how newspapers will soon become a thing of the past. I have a daughter who is in 8th grade now and wants to be a journalist. I do not want to discourage her, but is there any job security as a journalist? How do you feel about the future of newspapers? Thank you.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

It is so awful to hear that well known publications would do something so underhanded - it realyl is a shame that they can do that to you and get away with it.
I really enjoyed the movie but haven't read your books yet. I just found it on http://www.audiobooks.net/audiobooks.php in the top 20 section, which is great because audio books really suit my lifestyle. Looking forward to hearing the original version!

8:53 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Mr. Grogan, I just finished Marley and Me and enjoyed it enough to take a look at your web site. Frankly I was disapointed in your tirade against the newspaper. Let me ask you a question. When they hired you if they had said ...and by the way we think that someday you will be a rich and famous author and at that time we will reprint your work in book form because we have already paid you for it, would you have turned down the job? Don't you think you are whining a bit? Enjoy hitting the jackpot. Would Marley have cared?

8:52 AM  
Blogger ChrissyLaVine said...

I found one of the fake books on Amazon and it totally looks like it was written and published by you. Amazon does not mention that you did not actually have a hand in the publishing and unless you click to view the back cover and then zoom to read the fine print nobody would know. I would take that up with Amazon and ask them to remove you from the by line. That way it's not linked to books you actually wrote. I think it was real crap of them to treat you like that. Your work is great, they are just sad to have to ride your coattails.

11:35 AM  
Blogger HODER said...

Mr. Grogan,

I just watched the DVD of Marley & Me with my dog Loki on my lap. She chews, tears, rips, and acts a lot like movie Marley.

I have not read your books, nor did I know of your columns...but I just wanted to say thanks because I too am a journalist (on the television side) and I kissed and hugged Loki a little extra today.

Sincerley,

Shawn Hoder

10:18 PM  
Blogger Floortime Repository said...

When our beagle Hunter Warrior died it broke our hearts. We knew it was time for another dog to help my son.

You see my son has mild autism and having a dog really helped him. Everyday he brought me the book" The puppy who wanted a boy", so last year we got another beagle. We named him Linus because he loves blankets. He has separation anxiety and doesn't like thunder storms or the noise of the lawn mower.

We got him from a breeder. He has been good for my son, he pets him and says his name. When our dog Hunter died, my son would wake up and say"My friend is gone" but with a new friend he is happier.

Your right he is a dog that would have ended up in the pound, due to his separation anxiety, which we work on, and love of burying shoes and chewing.

He is a member of the family and very loved. My dad even says, "Come to Grandpa". I knew as soon as my dad gave him some steak, he was one of the family.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey said...

Holy Cow! I was just about to say how much I miss your columns in the Inquirer. The paper is just not the same without you...really. I remember when you went on your first tour,I think it was during the time Marley was being published, The Inquirer said good bye to John and indicated that a guest appearance from John could happen now and again. Now I know why you're not there. What a shameful thing for a once reputable paper to do. I'm sorry John. Hope all is well with you and your family. I finally broke down and watched the movie this weekend. After reading it 2x, then watching, the book is still better. The movie was great,nut the book rules.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Gi said...

Hi John!

Right after I read "Marley and Me" I was so in love with Marley and the book, and your writing, that I went to a bookstore to buy as many "John Grogan's books" as I could find!
Then I found "Bad dogs have more fun" and even before I blink, I had already bought it!
By the time I got home, I started reading the cover, the back, the first pages... and then booom! There were the words - I don't remember the exact words - but it was saying it was not your book!
I got pretty upset and very frustrated, and also very angry because it was not fair, not to me, not to you! I tought about returning it, but I wanted so badly to read your colums that... I read!
I do not regret reading it because they are all sooooooo good! But I would never have bought the book if I was aware it was not yours...

But, well, it is just another prove of your talent! And the recognition goes to you too.

God bless you, John!

Regards,

Giovana , 19 , SP Brasil

11:30 AM  
Blogger jackie said...

Hi Josh, I am at the end of Marley and Me and I know what is coming. I also have a yellow Lab and a Chocolate who are both twelve years old. Bothe adopted when they were eight from a local shelter. Marley is so much like my dog Leo. He is slowing down these days and has occasional spurts of energy. He can still counter surf though. I love the book but almost hate to read the ending because I know inevitably what happens and it will hit close to home. I have not seen the movie yet because being the animal lover I am I knew that I would be crying like a fool at the movies. Reading the book, I can sob in private. Congatulations on you success and thank you for giving Marley such a wonderful life. Jackie

1:11 AM  
Blogger jackie said...

Hi Josh, I am at the end of Marley and Me and I know what is coming. I also have a yellow Lab and a Chocolate who are both twelve years old. Both adopted when they were eight from a local shelter. Marley is so much like my dog Leo. He is slowing down these days and has occasional spurts of energy. He can still counter surf though. I love the book but almost hate to read the ending because I know inevitably what happens and it will hit close to home. I have not seen the movie yet because being the animal lover I am I knew that I would be crying like a fool at the movies. Reading the book, I can sob in private. Congatulations on you success and thank you for giving Marley such a wonderful life. Jackie

1:13 AM  
Blogger jackie said...

Hi Josh, I am at the end of Marley and Me and I know what is coming. I also have a yellow Lab and a Chocolate who are both twelve years old. Bothe adopted when they were eight from a local shelter. Marley is so much like my dog Leo. He is slowing down these days and has occasional spurts of energy. He can still counter surf though. I love the book but almost hate to read the ending because I know inevitably what happens and it will hit close to home. I have not seen the movie yet because being the animal lover I am I knew that I would be crying like a fool at the movies. Reading the book, I can sob in private. Congatulations on you success and thank you for giving Marley such a wonderful life. Jackie

1:16 AM  
Blogger steffanie said...

John

Hi wow I never thought I'd be posting a comment... I live right outside Philly I have 5 kids who absolutely LOVE and ADORE Marley we watch it everyday probably 5 6 times I still Cry at the end everytime!!and i know what happens!! we plan on getting the book I'd enjoy reading it to them... They see the puppy chow commercial and they all scream Marley at once its awesome... Well MArley is a great movie I really do have a question and I really hope you can answer it lol **Did Marley really eat an answering machine then go back for the phone??***

Well John it was awesome to write you... Where can i get your book?? I cant wait to read it to my children... Have a great day John!!!

5:42 AM  
Blogger Mariana said...

Yesterday I have finished reading your book for the fifth time, and for the fifth time I couldn't hold back my tears.
Thank you from an italian fan

(Sorry if my english isn't correct)

3:02 AM  
Blogger Lesley said...

Hello John
Well I can tell you Marley is well and truly reincarnated in my dog Oscar. He is also a Golden Labrador and like Marley eats everything in sighting including a couch and 2 rocker recliner chairs. He has separation anxiety and is on tablets - he goes beaufiully for a period where he is so loveable and others where I want to castrate him for the upteenth thousandth time!! When I read your book I so saw Oscar in Marley as you so well described him and yes I cried at the end but today after watching the movie, thankfully in my own home, I was balling my eyes out and blubbering like a fool - these tears were for Marley but more so our beloved past pets Ramses who was 17 when he passed away, Pluto who was 14 and the most recent loss Max who was 15. Ramses and Max were Labradors and as mentioned we have the "world's worst dog" now in Oscar but also our wonderful matriarch Maxine another Golden Labrador who is now 13 and yes time starting to count down to the next farewell but she still gives us much love and pleasure. We also have another little dog Bo 6 and 2 cats. We have been through so much pain saying goodbye to our pets but are so much richer in our lives for having had them in the first place.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Peace Love and Skulls said...

I'm sorry to hear that John, that is definitely poor taste on The Inquirer's part but well, it's all about the mighty dollar and obviously they will sell their soul for it. Being from Philadelphia, I was really ashamed to read that.
Thanks for letting us know, I will not support them and their attempts at riding on yout coat tails. Not cool!

4:42 AM  
Blogger Emilio said...

This is where money starts to corrupt a good man mind.

You know, I first read your book and then watched the movie, and I really enjoyed both, and still doing it.

But this blog entry just contaminates the image of the person you project in your book and movie.

I understand you being mad at the newspaper for publishing some of your work without notifying you, now that you are famous. But, would you say the same if you were still working there and that could actually help you on your career?

As you said, they are not doing anything illegal. All the material you produced there is their property and they can do anything they want to it. They are just fighting against this damn resecion.

I think that you owe them an apoligy for publishing this comments about them, you know that they are part of your career and your life and it does not talk good about you on talking trash on them.

Just my 2 cents

7:47 PM  
Blogger Tulehbuddah said...

Dear Mr. Grogan,

I just wanted to let you know that our local newspaper in Bend, Oregon called "The Bulletin" published a letter in the "My Nickels Worth" section of the newspaper on April 11th, 2009 wrtiten by a person who accuses you and your family of prolonging Marley's suffering in order to avoid your own fears. This person goes on to say that the Grogan family allowed Marley to unnecessarily suffer near the end of his life. Also in the article he does admit that he never read your book. I would like to send this article to you, (the headline for this article is called "Marley Cruelty") but not sure of what address to send it to. I just thought you might want to respond to the accusations that he made in our local newspaper especially since he didn't even read the book. I read your book and loved it !!!!

Sincerely,
Debbie
Bend, OR

2:48 PM  
Blogger brauliostafora said...

And that means that half the books published under the name John Grogan on the cover for sale in Brazil are not authorized publications. A shame because I really liked both and did not know who was sponsoring an unscrupulous newspaper when bought the second book.
By the way, there are details of other work to be published in Portuguese?

11:06 AM  
Blogger Breanna said...

John,
I loved the book Marley and me and in my 7th grade English class we just started a research project and i chose you. i was wondering if you could answer these questions
Have you always wanted to be a author?
Marley and me was your first book, did you ever think that it would become a movie?
Do you have any advice for teens who want to become an author?
What are your thoughts on Animal cruelty?
Thanks
(if you could email the answers to hobothatiscrazy1483@gmail.com or comment here)
Please answer!!!!!
Breanna
From Vicksburg michigan

10:33 AM  
Blogger 22066er said...

How awful that your previous employer, who paid you for your work, would want to make some money off it. It's called intellectual property, and from your post, it's clear that you understand it pretty well. Maybe you could explain how you were paid by the PI, collected benefits, vacation, and so on, and they now legally own the right to your work.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Eponah said...

I think what John is primarily annoyed by is that the Inquirer didn't bother to even contact him to say "hey we'd like to publish this, can we get an endorsement or intro" or something. The paper just published the works without any notification. I think John would have liked to have least known it was coming.

That said, I too would love to read the columns, since I missed (or can't recall) many of them, so rather than buying the books, I'm renting them from the library. Course, I've been doing that with a lot of books lately.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Danielle said...

Dear Mr. Grogan, my name is Danielle and I graduated from Temple Univ. in 1991 with a B.A. in broadcast journalism. Unfortunately I never pursued my dreams of becoming a news anchor or a writer. A decision I now regret. I had a pet who was a Marley. He was a cat named Derby. He was a cat trapped in a dogs mind and body. Unfortunately he died right in front of me, I guess from a heart attack. He was 15. I found him on Derby Ave. in Ventnor, NJ he was only 1 week old. He chewed pillows and wallpaper, ate human food, played and chewed ice cubes and barked. One day I made a barbecue for my aunt and he jumped on the kitchen table and took my aunts hot dog right out of the bun and ran away with it. He was very protective of my 2 children and my husband. Everyone else he would bite. He was something. He could even box, he would put his paws up and hit. Like Owen Wilson said in the movie he is no regular dog well neither was Derby. Every time I watch Marley and Me I cry because I know what it is to lose a member of the family. My 6 year old daughter is still devastated. He just died 3 months ago. My then 7 month old doesn't know the difference. I miss him and I'll love him always!

11:23 AM  

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