This is a tale of two books. The first is a volume of memoirs for which the author was paid a $6 million advance. It was featured on the cover of Time magazine and costs $24.95. It is called "An American Life" and was written by former President Ronald Reagan.
The second is also a book of memoirs, for which the author hasn't seen a dime. She didn't "do" Larry King or go on tour. The book costs $17.95. It is called "Millie's Book" and is the work of the nation's first dog, Millie Bush.Here's the scary part. Millie's life is outselling Ronnie's life at the bookstores.
Having read both books, I have come to the conclusion that this is because dogs have better memories than people. They don't hold anything back.
Millie remembers everything. Nothing is too shabby to report. She details the birth of her six puppies in the White House. (There is no mention of a husband.) She discusses Sam Donaldson and whether he really gave her a boot while he was touring the White House with Diane Sawyer. And she shares what it is like to shower with Barbara Bush.
Reagan remembers the score of the Michigan-Iowa game he broadcast during the Depression. But he can't remember anything about the Iran-Contra arms deal.
Generally speaking, memoirs tend to be reflections on the successes of a life. They are tomes of triumphs where, by the last page, the author has fulfilled his or her destiny. Not so with Millie. She stumbles through life trashing rose gardens and showing up where she is not wanted. She not only sleeps during Cabinet meetings, she offers pictures to prove it.
The authors of these two books have a lot in common. Both claim they had the White House thrust upon them, both have walked (one with four legs) with the greatest leaders of our times and both have kept diaries, but ironically it is Millie who brings a humanness to it all. It's a charming little book in which the White House comes alive with insights from a view that is close to the floor.
With the Reagan memoirs, it's like a walk through microfilm of news events I already have read about.
Millie may have set the standard for memoirs. Dogs have occupied the White House since there were presidents and children living there.
In fact, I'd like to hear what the Reagan's dog, Rex (the one that always strained at the leash when headed for the helicopter) has to say. There's a book in that dog. I know it.
1990 by Erma Bombeck
Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate