art of racing in the rain

I have just finished reading a kind of unusual book called “The Art Of Racing In The Rain” by Garth Stein. I suppose you could say it is a book about life, love, family and overcoming hardships and surviving to see better times. Frankly I do not usually enjoy books about heartbreaking family struggles, but this one had two very interesting features that made it quite enjoyable to read. First, the entire story-line is framed around professional race car driving. Using the challenge of completing a difficult race both as a metaphor for making it through life’s troubles, and as a real and practical connection between how the skills and strategies one uses to be a successful race car driver can be applied to the rest of their life. Also included are some wonderful emotive descriptions of the thrill of high speed track driving that should connect with anyone with even a mild love of driving. The second interesting feature of this book is that it is told entirely from the point of view of a dog named Enzo (as in Ferrari). A smart and aware dog that observes and understands what is going on around him (sometimes better than his human counterparts) but is hindered by his frustrating lack of the power to speak (and lack of thumbs), which prevents him from sharing his insights and guidance with his people. Even though Enzo’s intelligence may (or may not) be unrealistically high for a dog, the character is still very much a real dog, and not anthropomorphized into being too human, as some children’s books might do. Like all of us, even the dog in this story has life lessons to learn, as he prepares himself for what he is sure will be his eventual reincarnation into a man. The author does an excellent job of using Enzo as an outside observer to present commentary on the events of the story, while offering some wonderful philosophy of life from a dog’s eye view.

First paragraph:

“Gestures are all I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And while I occasionally step over the line and into the world of the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively. In order to make my point understood without question. I have no words I can rely on because, much to my dismay, my tongue was designed long and flat and loose, and therefore, is a horribly ineffective tool for pushing food around my mouth while chewing, and an even less effective tool for making clever and complicated polysyllabic sounds that can be linked together to form sentences.”

Getting to go a drive on the track:

“One bark means slower, two means faster, got it?”
I barked twice, and that surprised him and Pat an Jim, who were both leaning in the passenger window. “He wants to go faster already,” Jim said. “You’ve got yourself a good dog there.”
[…]
“You okay?” he asked, looking at me as we sped nearly one hundred twenty miles per hour down the back straight’
I barked twice.
“I’m gonna use up my tires if you keep me out here,” he said. “One more lap.”
Yes, one more lap. One more lap. Forever, one more lap. I live my life for one more lap. I give my life for one more lap! Please, God, please give me one more lap!
And that lap was spectacular…

A little philosophy on attitude:

“That which is around me does not affect my mood; my mood affects that which is around me.”