Reasons for Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein was recommended to me my long time friend John Ray. Otherwise, neither the title nor a synopsis would have interested me. I am glad that John loaned me his copy, because this book is one of the best I have read in a very long time.

John is a racing official and could always recite chapter and verse of just about every car made. I, on the other hand, view cars as transportation. As for racing, well, I just don’t know enough about it to get excited about watching cars go around the track at high speeds. I think I will enjoy it a lot more after reading this book.

But make no mistake, you don’t have to be a race fan to read this book.  I must also mention, though I hesitate, that a dog is the protagonist and he writes the book. Get over it. It works. When I finished, I was convinced that only a dog could have told this story so well.

Ever look into the eyes of a dog and see an old soul? Enzo is an old soul.  Telling this story from a dog’s viewpoint is humorous at times, but that is not what makes it a great book. The author brilliantly uses the dog to put a mirror onto human behavior.  We get to see our actions through an old soul’s eyes and mind.

I had never thought of it this way before, but a dog can say things (no, he is not a talking dog; we get to hear his thoughts) that seem profound that might sound sanctimonious or opinionated when spouted by a human.

For example, Enzo posts, “I don’t understand why people insist on pitting the concepts of evolution and creation against each other. Why can’t they see that spiritualism and science are one?”

Garth Stein and his dog.

Some would want to argue with a human about that, but not a dog who doesn’t really seem to have a “dog in the fight.”  He’s just an astute observer of the human (and the dog) condition.

I have read about an animal’s ability to sense illness in a human and Enzo can smell it.

I also really related to this book because Enzo comes right out and faces head-on some of the principles of “the flow” that I tiptoed around in five novels. In many cases, I used sports as a means of relaying a life concept that I have come to believe. This book uses racing in the same way.

Enzo has learned from Denny (owner or master just doesn’t work when describing the relationship between Enzo and Denny) this principle as it applies to racing (and of course, to life).  “Such a simple concept, yet so true: that which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.”

In other words, the source of almost of all of our problems can be found by looking in the mirror. We might question that theory if we heard it in a seminar or read it in a self-help book, but when Enzo says it, you somehow believe it. If a dog can figure this out, why can’t we?

Enzo recognizes his limitations as a dog in a human world. He has just the proper amount of humility. “By changing my mood, my energy, I allowed Eve (Denny’s wife) to regard me differently. And while I cannot say that I am a master of my own destiny, I can say that I have experienced a glimpse of mastery, and I know what I have to work toward.”

Author Garth Stein deftly manages to keep Enzo as a dog first, not some superhuman philosopher who puts himself above humans. That would have made it cartoonish. Enzo knows his limitations. “I knew what was wrong, but I had no way to tell her, so I pushed at her thigh with my muzzle.”

This may be my favorite thing a dog can think that we can’t say effectively. Enzo desires to come back as a person. “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. People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of each other’s conversations constantly. It’s like having a passenger in your car who suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns you down a side street.”

Here’s another: “So much of language is unspoken.” Think about how a dog who cannot speak has to rely on the rest of language, not only from himself, but from humans.

I even agree with this dog’s choice of great movies and actors. Shoot, I might start attending racing events now that I know how to race in the rain. “Racing is about discipline and intelligence, not about who has the heavier foot. The one who drives smart will always win in the end.”

True for racing, baseball, golf, roping, or any sport, and of course, life.  Try this book.

Jim Ainsworth is the author of Go Down Looking.


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