Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

I didn't expect to like this book. It's about a race car driver (not interested) and it is narrated by his dog (double not interested). But it was recommended to me by Anne (who, by the way, ought to post on her blog more frequently because I know she has all kinds of interesting things to say). Anne's book suggestions are worth something to me, so I thought I might give it a try.

Judging by the source of the recommendation, I shouldn't be surprised that I enjoyed the book. I was afraid the doggy narration would either be too silly (look! a squirrel!) or too human, but Stein achieves a fine balance in anthropomorphizing Enzo the dog. He is smart, even philosophical, but not so clever that you lose sight of the possibility that maybe dogs really can think this way. Not my dogs, of course. One is too lazy, the other is too spastic, and neither has the look of a deep thinker. I can't help but figure that when they bark their minds are devoid of anything beyond "woof." But I have heard of dogs whose responsiveness to humans surely reflects an internal monologue every bit as steeped in astute observation as Enzo's.

Enzo is not omniscient (which is a good thing, of course, so that the story is not impossible to swallow), but he sees and knows and understands so much. It was a bit jarring at times when Enzo was clearly a thinly disguised vehicle for the author's own opinions (like the brief diatribe on allergies and pharmaceutical companies, among others) but it was never to an extent where I lost the magic and fell out of the book.

Some of the weirdest parts of the story (the zebra, the crows) were my favorites. They kept the narrative from being too syrupy, too saccharine, too sentimental. It was just as Enzo explains when postulating that a true hero is not perfect and must overcome obstacles of his own making in order to triumph. Unfortunately, I found Enzo's owner a bit too good to be true, belying those observations, but this was not a fatal flaw in the book.

My prayer to the movie gods: please give up on your film adaptation of this book. I can only picture two possible movies, and they would both suck. Movie #1: Just Denny the driver's story, with Enzo sidelined as a mute witness. This would drain all the life from the story. Movie #2: a movie more faithful to the book, with an Enzo voiceover by someone like Judge Reinhold. Please, no.

10 comments:

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I so want to read this book! I just had a chance to read and review the author's original debut novel from 1998 that is being re-released now and it's awesome (Raven Stole the Moon). I can't wait to read this one!

Coffee and a Book Chick

Charley said...

I've been curious about this book. It doesn't strike me as one I would like, but I read the first 10 pages the other day and teared up.

Rachel said...

I'd been recommended this too but wasn't too interested, but your review makes me want to read it. I may just give it a go.

Kathy said...

Natalie--I hope you get your hands on it soon! I think you'll like it. Charley and Rachel--if your reasons for disinterest are the same as mine were (car racing theme/dog as narrator) I bet you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was. AND, Charley, if the first ten pages made you tear up, you're in trouble later on in the book! :)

Stephanie said...

I've been on the fence about reading this one. I've been skeptical about whether someone could write from a dog's perspective in an interesting, believable way. However, after reading your review, I'll probably give it a go. I agree with you, though, that some books should not be adapted to film.

Kathy said...

You'll have to let me know what you think if you do give it a go!

Kind of funny about the way some books shouldn't be made into film--that sure doesn't stop 'em, does it? :)

Amanda said...

Finally finished this none! So much for reading it together!! I was also unsure about a dog narration, but it's actually written quite well. I enjoyed it.

Kathy said...

Wow, how many other books did you read in between? I'm kind of glad I didn't wait for you. ;) But I agree--this book was a pleasant surprise, and I enjoyed it.

Amanda said...

Oh, once you finished it I put it aside. I had so many books I was more excited about. You just caught me at a point where I had no time to read and you finished it quite quickly!

Kathy said...

I really think you should start a book blog! I would read it. :)