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The Art of Racing in the Rain is Garth Stein’s third novel.  In his elegant and earthy prose, we discover Stein’s development as a writer and a thinker.  This beautifully spare writing creates a visual novel in which we read the scenes through Enzo, the dog narrator, who interprets what he sees for us readers.  Eventually we come to see the world his way.  Is the story about Denny, the race car driver with the steady heart in the face of adversity? Or is the story about Enzo, who is Denny’s moral core and whose strength in the face of crisis redeems Denny and those he loves?  Or is the story about the mystical meaning of dogs? 

Stein tells the tale of an ordinary man, a hero to the loyal Enzo, living an ordinary life where joy and sorrow trump each other through the years.  Yet the story, like that of James Joyce’s Ulysses and John Updike’s “Rabbit” series is infused with the search for meaning through the significance of myth.  Enzo is a dog of mixed and non-specialized background, but, as the storytellers of the past tell us, to be a dog is to be a creature who straddles several worlds- the world of the animal and the human, the world of the living and the transformation beyond.  In mythology, dogs are the guardians of the soul- and Enzo does save Denny’s soul regularly, as well as guards the soul of Denny’s wife, Eve, when she needs him most.  

Dog consciousness is the new modernity, as is the evolved male.  Stein creates a better man than Leopold Bloom and Rabbit- and a shorter story.  But brevity is the new modernity too.  Stein’s book has been compared to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, which is about neither Zen nor motorcycles, actually.  Philosophic ideas like transformation, karma, reincarnation and the ascending soul do figure strongly in the novel as core principals, but Stein’s book really is about Enzo, one of the best dog characters ever invented in the history of dog writing.   

I have one issue.  Enzo really, really wants to be human.  He learns from Denny’s racing principles how to change the roadway of his life:  “… while I cannot say I am master of my own destiny…, I know what I have to work toward.” (44)   But if one could be as stable, loyal, clear-headed and simply sane as Enzo, why aspire to be the basket case of mixed motives and confusion that is the hallmark of human nature?  I think we should all aspire to be like Enzo.  Go ahead and read the book and see if Enzo gets his wish.  You will like the ending.  

Dear Blog Readers, Garth Stein’s representatives are offering a free copy of this novel to the first reader who simply barks up and requests it.  Just write us at: helenfazio@traveldogbooks.com and say you would like a copy of the book.  Provide your mailing address and, for the first reader who simply asks, we’ll take it from there.

Pat & Buttercup
5/26/2009 09:36:30 pm

Hi Raja.. sounds like a great read .. and i must say you look like you throughly enjoyed it .. Kisses, Buttercup & Momma Pat

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5/27/2009 02:02:51 pm

Well you already know how I feel about the book... but fantastic review!

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Connie and Enzo
5/28/2009 09:53:20 am

Helen,
You always find the most amazing stories to share.
Sounds like a wonderful book. If no one has asked for the free copy yet count me in.
I have a feeling my Enzo will have alot to live up to after reading about the Enzo in the book.


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Sheryl
5/28/2009 11:39:15 am

This sounds like a wonderful, almost mystical book. I will look for it.

Thanks for the review.

Sheryl
(I'd never heard the name Enzo before - and now, there are two in my 'world')

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    RAJA BLOGS ABOUT PARIS FOR FIDO FRIENDLY As a world reknowned traveler Raja was invited to blog for his friends at fido friendly.com a website that helps pet owners find accommodations. Click here to visit Fido Friendly


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    Helen  feels most comfortable in places where she doesn't speak the language; she  likes to do almost everything, except hunt and watch TV sports. 
     Raja is a Shih Tzu.  Directly descended from the Mongolian wolf, Raja is hardy and loves to roam with his pack.  Tamed in the monasteries of Tibet, he takes the long view.  Finished in the palaces of 16th century China, he is elegant.  Rescued from China by the artistocrats of Europe, he is a ham.

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pet travel advice, airplane travel tips, travel with my dog, how do I travel with my pet, Raja, shitzu, dogs