Friday, October 15, 2010

Great Poodle Moments in Literature

When France entered World War II, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas could not track down their passports that they needed should they have to flee suddenly, but they did find the pedigree papers for their poodle Basket. This seemed of greater importance to them since it assured them of being able to get ration stamps for his premium food.

Were Basket and his "heir" Basket II the world's most famous poodles? Basket is chronicled in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and was photographed by Man Ray. Love of poodles is one thing Gertrude Stein had in common with Jacqueline Susann who serenaded hers in Every Night Josephine! before she went on to sex and scandal books.
Basket II was also the subject of a portrait painted by Marie Laurencin. Poodles were a central part of my childhood, though I never had my own, though my aunt had three -- Geronimo, Josephine and Yvette. She also gave me the classic book below.
I especially love this "cast credit" page. As you can see, this was given to me before the age of six when I transformed into Gregg after alternating between being known alternately as Greg, Gregory, Gregoire or The Pest.
Playtime Poodles was perhaps my favorite book in early life. I related closely to the story of Bobo and Suzette and found the photos captivating, even if they weren't by Man Ray.
Poodles fell out of favor by the late 1960s and were often ridiculed as "a sorry excuse for a dog" by some who saw them as being too fou-fou. I have troubles with the more recently popular poodle fusions like cockapoos, labradoodles and pekepoos. It sort of feels like cheating, or sneaking in tofu into dishes for people who normally would not consume it. I'm sure that each individual dog has its charms, but I wonder what Gertrude and Alice would say, let alone Suzette and Bobo.

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