Sunday, April 10, 2011

Martin Kihn

Martin Kihn is the author of the comic memoir Bad Dog (A Love Story). It's his story of trying to stay sober while training his out-of-control 90-pound Bernese mountain dog, Hola, for her Canine Good Citizen certification from the American Kennel Club. Kihn's previous memoir of his time as a cutthroat management consultant was recently filmed as a pilot for Showtime.

Not so long ago I asked him what he was reading.  His reply:
Like most writers, I'm always reading -- but rarely what people expect. No modern fiction or biographies. And although I've been known to write them, I don't read business books, which studies have shown are written at the eighth grade level (on average). I like to have three genres going at once, and these days I'm pretty consistently reading at least one in each of the following:

(1) Mysteries featuring dogs or cats -- This, oddly, is a thriving sub-genre of cozy mysteries. The gold standards are the first five entries in Lilian Jackson Braun's "The Cat Who ..." series, which are better than you think, and Susan Conant's Dog Lovers Mysteries. Right now I'm reading Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, first in a new series by Minnesota author Sofie Kelly. She gives the cats magical powers, which is a courageous way of solving the perennial genre problem: How can a non-talking animal actually solve a crime?

(2) Books written or set in big houses in the 19th century -- I've always loved Gothics, especially the sprawling bestsellers of one and two centuries ago by Ann Radcliffe, Elizabeth Braddon and Wilkie Collins. I just read a contemporary Gothic by Michael Cox, The Glass of Time, which is even better than the prequel, The Meaning of Night. Both manage to pay intimate, knowing homage to Wilkie Collins while still being thrilling time trips into a dubious universe of mistaken heirs, mysterious maids, and eavesdropping as a dramatic device. And Cox put me in the mood to begin Collins' Armadale, which is not nearly as well known as The Woman in White or The Moonstone, but certainly starts with a bang.

(3) Theology -- I write a blog called The God Project Dot Net, which is a kind of non-denominational search for You-Know-Who, and it's requiring me to do a lot of basic reading. Two millenia's worth, to be precise. Right now I'm belatedly discovering the great proto-existentialist Soren Kierkegaard's Training in Christianity, which has all of his passion, wit and eccentricity. I think because he was independently wealthy -- not to mention a genius -- he didn't worry what people would think. He's as exciting to read as Wilkie Collins, in his own way.
Learn more about Bad Dog: A Love Story at Martin Kihn's website and the Bad Dog Facebook page.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Martin Kihn and Hola.

The Page 99 Test: Bad Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue