I probably ought to mention that I'm one of the participants in a book seminar over at CrookedTimber, an honour I owe to the remarkable Maria Farrell. We're responding to Glen David Gold's Sunnyside, a book about which I had mixed, or rather chaotic, feelings: it takes in, among other things, American intervention in the Russian civil war, the birth and puppyhood of Rin-Tin-Tin, and Charlie Chaplin's rise to global celebrity. No argument about the brilliance of the parts; it's the whole I have my reservations about. My piece concentrated on Chaplin, a phenomenon who these days seems to be almost always underestimated and condescended to; Glen has understood more about his place in modern culture than most critics have. This was months ago, by the way: now, after almost a year with my whippet, I'd probably have more to say on the many dogs the book contains.
After all this time I'm unsure how well my bit stands up: I'm darn certain that the response to my turmoil Glen has written is more thoughtful and graceful than it merited. My fellow participants (seminarians?) are Stuart Evers and Adam McGovern, with CrookedTimber's John Holbo butting in unofficially: Maria introduces it all here. It might be helpful to look at Chaplin's film Sunnyside - one of his strangest and best - starting here; while you're at it, you may as well try A Dog's Life.