Wally's World is a memoir in the tradition of Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. Like Steinbeck, Marsha touches on larger themes, and she does document a journey, both physical and "spiritual" that is, at times, unabashedly sentimental, in the manner of John Grogan's Marley and Me.
Wally is Marsha’s English Bull Terrier. His kennel name is Rather's Wallace Stevens. (He was named after the great American poet and corporate scion Wallace Stevens - "One must have a mind of winter...etc. et. al.") Marsha and her partner, writer Stephen Williams are Wally's world.
Bull Terriers are very funny, unique dogs. A bully named Rufus took Best in Show at Westminster in 2006, the first time for the breed in 64 years.
Patton had a bull terrier named Willie. Snoopy is based on Shultz's gardener's bull terrier. James Thurber had a bully. Although Charley was not a bull terrier Steinbeck had always wanted one and eventually got his wish. He died with a bully named Angel by his side. Marsha uses a Steinbeck quote at the beginning of the book:
"I have owned all kinds of dogs, but there's one I've always wanted and never had. I wonder if he still exists. There used to be a white, English Bull Terrier. He was stocky, but quick. His muzzle was pointed and his eyes triangular, so his expression was that of cynical laughter. He was friendly and not quarrelsome but forced into a fight he was very good at it. He had a fine, decent sense of himself and was never craven. He was a thoughtful, inward dog, and yet he had enormous curiosity. He was heavy of bone and shoulder. He had a fine arch to his neck. His ears were sometimes cropped, but his tail never. He was a good dog for a walk. An excellent dog to sleep beside a man's bed. He showed a delicacy of sentiment. I have always wanted one of him. I wonder if whether he still exists in the world?"
He does, and his name is Wally.
Wally's World is an idiosyncratic memoir of an unusual period in Marsha's life that was the fulfillment of that Chinese curse "May you like in interesting times."
In that sense, it is also inspirational because it is about over-coming, never giving up. Wally’s World is quite unique and distinctive, a fact that has as much to do with Wally’s anthropomorphic character as with Marsha’s writerly skills. Wally is an ambassador for everything that is good in the world, a comedian and a world-class soccer player. Wally never wakes up in a bad mood. His motto is carpe deim.
When Marsha, Stephen and Wally fled to New York after the police raided their farm in July of 2003, and stayed until mid-September, Wally became a celebrated boulevardaire. Wally was six then, and had never been off the farm. His reaction to New York was hilarious. Chapter 37 is entitled "Wally Takes Manhattan." Marsha explores the trio’s daily rather dazed wanderings back and forth between Soho and the Village and visits to Washington Square.
Through Wally Marsha and Stephen met the best butchers who vied for the privilege of providing the biggest bone (Ottomanelli's on Bleeker. Every once in a while they threw in a steak for the humans).
Wally had his own water bowl at Da Silvano and licked the ankles of many a model - he prefers celebrity ankles. While his humans were playing the fugitive card, Wally bounded boisterously into the streets of New York, showing them a curb-side perspective of the city and its characters they would otherwise never have had and gave them entrée into places they could otherwise never have afforded, such as Da Silvano.
Marsha and Stephen’s relationship with Wally is one of the reasons why they survived their eight-year ordeal. Wally was the catalyst that got Marsha back to the writing table. She was having a great deal of trouble since the police seized her computers in 2003. Even though Stephen’s troubles were over and done with as of January 14, 2005, Marsha just could not seem to get her mojo working until she thought about the world as Wally must have seen it. As the Globe and Mail said “Wally’s World is an immensely readable and reflective memoir told in an engaging manner.”