The title of Matthew Gilbert’s first book, “Off the Leash,” cuts two ways. It’s about Matt’s dog Toby going off his leash in his local dog park, Amory Park in Brookline (close to where I live too) to scurry around, run wild, and make doggie friends. It’s also about Matt, a TV critic at the Boston Globe , friend and former colleague, going off the leash himself, the leash in this case being the invisible tether the TV has on him. (Not just professionally, but personally. Matt likes to watch. And he’s got his rituals and rules for doing so. Part of the book explains Matt’s attraction and escape into the world TV has provided over his lifetime, the comfort zone of “Dick Van Dyke” reruns as a kid and the challenging dark, crime dramas of today. Matt and I have had quite animated, and ironic/humorous discussions of TV, music and life at the Globe when we both worked there, but he is, he says, by nature an introvert.
He was not a dog kid. Not an animal kid. But his puppy love forced him out into a world he would never have ventured into – and into meeting people (friends, potential friends) who would never have crossed his path. The TV critic world is a pretty hermetic one. And Matt is a terrific critic, nuanced and on-target just about all the time. But being a critic can be isolating (I know) and you spend way more time at the keyboard/computer than you should. Making the dog frolic a key part of your world, changes that world and though you may not have children, you have this incredible responsibility. (My wife and are cat people, but love dogs, too.) Watching the dogs do their rituals, their chases, and being part of a community that you never thought you’d be part of – all relatable and enjoyable.
“Off the Leash” chronicles his first year with his puppy, Toby – the book’s full title is “Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park” – and the relationship with his husband Tom as both dealt with this boisterous new entry in their tidy Brookline domain. There is a “Marley & Me” aspect to the book, a journey for him and his dog, as both make friends, And the changes it makes in his life. Matt reads Tuesday at Porter Square Books at 7. Free. (The accompanying photo taken at Matt’s book release party at Bar Louie last week. Lots of old friends reconvened to wish Matt and his book well and a newbie in the crowd was actor Chris Cooper, who Matt hadn’t yet met, and “The Leftovers” author Tom Perrotta.)
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