The Art of Racing in the Rain **** by Garth Stein
****(Xanax, and Kleenex maybe required)
I’m joining Jain in with this edible book review at Food for Thought, where in her words, pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera. Books, Food & Photos, my three favorite things all in one place!
I HIGHLY recommend this book! Particularly so, if you are a dog lover and pet owner. Enzo is the narrator of this story. He is the best friend and confidant of Denny, his owner. In Enzo’s final hours, he looks back on his life, reminiscing– as Denny marries Eve, and has a daughter, Zoe.
I’ve always felt almost human. I’ve always known that there’s something about me that’s different than other dogs. Sure, I’m stuffed into a dog’s body, but that’s just a shell. It’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human.
The title of the book is explained by Denny’s philosophy about driving:
‘Drivers are afraid of the rain,’ Denny told us. ‘Rain amplifies your mistakes, and water on the track can make your car handle unpredictably. When something unpredictable happens you have to react to it; if you’re reacting at speed, you’re reacting too late. And so you should be afraid.’
Enzo applies Denny’s driving philosophy towards Eve:
I had always wanted to love Eve as Denny loved her, but I was afraid. She was my rain. She was my unpredictable element. She was my fear. But a racer should not be afraid of rain; a racer should embrace the rain.
I watch too much TV. When Denny goes away in the mornings, he turns it on for me, and it’s become a habit. He warned me not to watch all day, but I do. Fortunately, he knows I love cars, so he lets me watch a lot of Speed Channel. The classic races are the best, and I especially like Formula One. I like NASCAR, too, but I prefer it when they race on the road circuits.
I got the biggest kick out of Enzo’s other TV favorites…The Weather Channel: “It’s not about the weather; it’s about the world!” He watches Sesame Street with Zoe in hopes of teaching himself to read…When they move, he recognizes his new house as ‘craftsman-style’, from watching This Old House. (I’m afraid my dogs are suffering in their television education by comparison. I’m not sure what they are learning from watching American Idol, The Office, Survivor, and Weeds.)
Enzo’s observations about racing are many and this books uses racing as a metaphor for life, here are just a few:
The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles–preferably of his own making–in order to triumph.
There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.
The race is long. It is better to drive within oneself and finish the race behind the others than it is to drive too hard and crash.
Enzo’s observations were so insightful:
People are always worried about what’s happening next. They often find it difficult to stand still, to occupy the now without worrying about the future.
Parking lots are weird places. People love their cars so much when they are moving, but they hurry away from them so quickly when they stop moving. People are loath to sit in a parked car for long. They are afraid someone might judge them for it, I think. The only people who sit in parked cars are police and stalkers, and sometimes taxi drivers on a break, but usually only when they’re eating. Whereas me, I can sit in a parked car for hours and nobody thinks to ask. Odd.
I tried to eat slowly, savoring each bite, but I was too hungry and swallowed them so quickly I barely got to taste them. What a shame to waste something so wonderful on a dog. Sometimes I hate what I am so much.
Enzo constantly laments his lack of opposable thumbs and his tongue that is “long and flat and loose” and therefore an ineffective tool to communicate with.
There were not a lot of food vignettes to choose from…just several observations from Enzo about how carefully Denny prepares Zoe’s lunch…
…And by contrast how Zoe’s grandparents (aka The Twins) do not.
There are a couple of incidents with pepperoncini and Eve’s clueless parents. I was outraged on Enzo’s behalf.
since that time…I have never accepted food from someone I didn’t fully trust.
It was the Zebra.
Enzo has a “zebra” moment…I can relate. My dogs have had their own zebra moments :-)
I suddenly realized. The zebra. It is not something outside of us. The zebra is something inside of us. Our fears. Our own self-destructive nature. The zebra is the worst part of us when we are face-to-face with our worst times. The demon is us!
Since pancakes are Enzo’s favorite food, followed by bananas as a close second, I found a recipe for Banana Sour Cream Pancakes, courtesy of Ina Garten.
The Zebra is everywhere :-)
Enzo learns from watching the National Geographic Channel that a dog’s next incarnation will be as a man. “Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready.”
Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot speak, so I listen very well. I never interrupt, I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own.
I have to confess, even though I live in the heart of NASCAR country (Charlotte, NC), I am ambivalent towards racing. I do find it great ‘white noise’ for a Sunday afternoon nap. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the racing element to this book. My husband even read it after I finished for that reason.
An aside about the Xanax and Kleenex: A friend recommended and loaned me this book and I’m really glad I read it. But, it’s not something I tend to pick up at the bookstore, even though I’m a dog lover. I am a wimp when it comes to animal stories and shows. This book begins at the end of Enzo’s life and that, alone, starts the water works for me.