October 23, 2002
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Free the Beagle
Having just finished Free the Beagle, I am at a loss as to where to start this review. The funny thing about it is that I think Roy Williams would approve of such hesitancy. First of all, Free the Beagle tells a fantasy story of a lawyer and a beagle traveling together on the rough road to destiny. Is there an allegory buried within this simple adventure story? Most certainly, but the success of the book is that there are more than one interpretation to be had, perhaps one for every type of reader out there. Though, as a business book, Free the Beagle will most certainly find itself in the company of Who Moved My Cheese, Peacock in the Land of Penguins, and Roy Williams Wizard books, I warn you now to not limit yourself to that interpretation. Instead, pick it up with no preconceptions. Knowing little to nothing about the book until I received my copy (meaning, I didnt read a bunch of hype about it first) I went into it with an open mind. What have I decided? That Roy Williams is a master and I have just received my education. He understands his audience so clearly How can I explain?
I read Free the Beagle expecting a simple business allegory. I was charmed by the little dog, amused by the rigidity of the logical lawyer, and the journey Roy Williams concocted for them. They traverse through such places as the Forest of Confusion and the Sea of False Hope, overcoming loss. The tale harkened back to The Little Prince or Flatland or even those new popular book/movies Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings. Enjoying allegorical fiction, I figured Id enjoy this also. When I concluded the first section as the lawyers journey concluded, I thought, huh. Nice story. Very applicable to any sort of interpretation depending on what the reader is needful of. Maybe a little precious with the cute little beagles and the clever destination namesand it wasnt exactly profound, but it worked. Then I moved on to the startling second section. It surprised me that Williams included a transcript of a roundtable meeting held to discuss this book. I was initially put off by this section because I tend to think an allegory to should be able to succeed without any additional explanation, and yet, here was a whole section to dissect the story! I continued to read. In attendance are a number of educated, successful folks who have all read the book. The discussion is led by Ray Bard, the publisher. For 20 pages, the book is discussed by this diverse group of people and each person brings his or her own interpretation to the book, such interpretations that I never really even considered. Of course, as I read, I realize that my interpretation fell in line with that of the skeptic, the literary critic. Obviously Roy Williams included a skeptic in the roundtable because he expected a few readers like me to be skeptical. However, not everyone saw it that way, in fact, each interpretation (I wont list them here because, hey, why ruin it for you?) was so fully realized, it became clear that Roy intended each from the very beginning. And, instead of allowing the reader to only see one reading (as I would have), he included the roundtable discussion to open each reader up to the myriad of interpretations. Of course, this could be preening on Williams part and reminded me of the Agatha Christie mystery 10 Little Indians where a mysterious stranger gathers together just the right group of folks to get just the right results. But just like the other skeptic at the table, I will be rereading the story, maybe even a few times, but I can say this: Free the Beagle is a book for everyone and will tell you a lot about yourself.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.