Rin Tin Tin: The Life, The Legend, The Author

Susan Orlean
Writer Susan Orlean signed copies of her best-selling book about Rin Tin Tin during a program sponsored by the Friends of the SMU Libraries October 10.

Author Susan Orlean kicked off her national tour for the paperback edition of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend at a program presented by the Friends of the SMU Libraries October 10. In the best-selling book, Orlean connects the tender narrative of a man and his extraordinary German shepherd to a broader exploration of the emotional human-animal bond and the 20th-century entertainment industry.

"Rin Tin Tin was Zelig-like. You didn't know how he would figure back into history, but there he was," she remarked about the 90-year, rollercoaster career of the original "Rinty" and his successors. "He appeared in every format – silent movies, talkies, comics, books, television and even radio. Not even Superman can say that."

One of Rin Tin Tin's most famous silent movies, Clash of the Wolves (1925), is included in a video series that may be checked out from the Fondren Library Center Media Collection.

The author's comprehensive knowledge of her subject came after months spent poring over special collections in museums and libraries on both coasts and in London. "I kept finding archives I didn't expect to find," she said.

That experience gave her an appreciation for libraries and archives that could become the focus of her next book, she said.

"I really couldn't have done this book without libraries, not only because of the materials they hold but also because of the atmosphere – libraries are alive. It's such a different experience from researching on the Internet," she explained. "And I also worked with phenomenal librarians, who knew the materials and were so organized and helpful."

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