Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel
By Garth Stein
2008 HarperCollins Publishers
Hardcover, Luxe PB, and unabridged audiobook, HC 9780061537936, $23.95

The takeaway from this, my favorite book of the season, is to remember: Somewhere the Zebra is Dancing.

This book is deeply philosophical, wryly funny, and frighteningly poignant. But most of all, it’s a great read, and one you’ll want to share with everyone you know.

As I told the readers of my books blog, I really want you to meet my new friend Enzo.
For my readers, I was very careful to keep them in the dark about who Enzo was until they, too, could fall in love with him. For Enzo is an incredibly likable fellow. His philosophy is somewhat simple, but certain and profound.

We meet Enzo near the end of his life. He’s waiting desperately for his lifelong companion, Denny Swift, to return home. Why must he wait? Well, Enzo is a dog. But not just any dog.

Enzo is a dog with a human soul. He’s convinced of it, and you will be too, for Enzo has the insight and empathy, the compassion and love that we all would desire in a life partner.

As Enzo tells the story of his life and the lives of the family he’s raised by, he shares with us the wisdom he has acquired. As Denny’s companion, he’s learned, for example, that there’s more to racing than going fast. That that which you manifest is before you.

He has also learned a key truth from the excessive amounts of TV he has watched, including countless documentaries. A documentary on the dogs of Mongolia changes Enzo’s life. It seems that when a Mongolian dog reaches the end of his life, his owner whispers into his ear the hope that he will return as a man. Once Enzo accepts the concept of reincarnation, he knows he has been put on this earth to prepare.

Yes, it’s frustrating for Enzo to be unable to open doors (no opposable thumbs) or communicate in English (his tongue is just too floppy to form the syllables). But knowing his destiny, Enzo can’t wait to become human.

Stein says he was inspired to tell this story from Enzo’s point of view after hearing Billy Collins at a reading in Seattle. Collins’ poem, The Revenant, begins, "I am the dog you put to sleep...come back to tell you one simple thing: I never liked you—not one bit."

Stein, a former documentary filmmaker from Seattle, wrote two previous novels - How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets and Raven Stole the Moon, and a play, Brother Jones.

1 comment:

Eleanor said...

Hi Randy,

I wonder if you might be interested in another original work of fiction, also narrated by a sentient labrador. (This labrador, Randolph, has rather high-brow tastes, preferring Dante to television.)

A DOG AMONG DIPLOMATS (April 2008) is the second book in a quirky mystery series by J.F. Englert. The first book, A DOG ABOUT TOWN was published in May 2007, and the third book, A DOG AT SEA, is scheduled for publication in April/May of 2009.

I'm helping author J.F. Englert reach out to bloggers, and I'd be happy to send you review copies of either or both books if you're interested!

An overview of the books and excerpts from reviews already in are below.

I also noticed that you're a bookseller--the author is offering 10 complimentary copies of either book to independent booksellers to give out to their customers. If you're interested, just let me know where to have your copies sent.


BULL MOOSE DOG RUN MYSTERY SERIES - A Dog About Town, A Dog Among Diplomats

In writing this fanciful mystery series, Englert adopts the daring and original conceit of employing a first-person narration by a labrador-cum-detective, Randolph. The first book in the series, A Dog About Town, was recognized with the 2007 fiction award from The Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA).

Unbeknownst to his owners, Randolph (a black lab) is both sentient and literate--even well-read, spending much of the time that he has to himself at their Upper West Side apartment immersed in books. A year before the first novel opens, Randolph's mistress Imogen disappears without a trace, leaving behind a broken-hearted and mystified boyfriend and dog.

In A DOG ABOUT TOWN, the object of Randolph's ability to read and to reason turns from private past time to undercover detective work as he gently prods his less-enlightened owner, Harry, toward the answers behind a suspicious death--which also holds clues to Imogen's disappearance. Combining his powers of reasoning with his superior sense of smell (100,000 more powerful than that of humans), he is able to literally sniff out the trail, as well as the guilty parties.

In A DOG AMONG DIPLOMATS, Randolph dedicates himself to a second murder case—this time one with ties to the U.N. and in which Imogen is implicated as a possible suspect.

Advance praise for A DOG AMONG DIPLOMATS
Englert's droll mix of mystery, philosophical musing about man and beast, political doings at the U.N. and the mysteries of love make this an elegant, funny and inspiring romp in the park. - Publishers Weekly

LibraryThing members on A DOG AMONG DIPLOMATS
"This book reminded me of two things, both very disconnected: the old-time movie serials where the heroine is always left in utmost peril until the next sequence and P.G. Wodehouse."

"the writing is sharp and witty"

"I couldn't help but fall in love with Randolph."

"a marvelous study of character, especially the dog's, and has some of the funniest writing I've ever read in the genre."

"Like Wodehouse, [Englert] often throws off phrases that you want to reread just for the sheer pleasure of it."