Monday, October 18, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a thorougly moving and indefinately powerful novel told from the point of view of a beloved golden retriever, Enzo. Enzo is an observant and loyal canine who observes his master, Denny, as he struggle through his dreams of becoming a professional racer, the death of his wife, and the difficulty of raising his young daughter as a single dad. The story begins with Enzo on his deathbed as he recollects the memories and characters of his short and chaotic life. Enzo refers to Denny's girlfriend and later his wife, Eve, as the "interloper." He eventually, however, learns to love and protect her as well. Enzo's true test of loyalty comes when Eve asks him to protect the family when she gives birth to Zoe. Unexpectedly, Eve dies, leaving Denny devastated. Enzo stands by his master during the three year battle between Denny and Eve's parents for custody of Zoe.
Throughout his life, Enzo is frustrated by his lack of thumbs and the fact that he cannot speak. More often than not, Enzo complains to himself, "Gestures are all I have." An unending silence, however, allows Enzo to understand the need for listening as well as more time to observe the tedious ways of human life. He notes, "They're responders and reactors, not independent thinkers." He often notices that people cling to rituals and an unnecesarily stressful schedule. With their overbearing agenda, people lack the time to notice the small yet powerful beauties in life. For example, Enzo admires the human figure in ways that only artists ever seem to understand. As he observes Denny's movements, he states, "He is so brilliant. He shines. He's beautiful with his hands that grab things and his tongue that says things and the way he stands and chews his food for so long, mashing it into a paste befreo he swallows."
Also, the many hours of watching television with Denny teach Enzo valuable lessons. He knows that life, unlike car racing, is not about finishing first. Rather, it is about taking what has happend and leaving it behind you and taking the lead in what lies in ahead. Enzo learns what it takes to be a kind and compassionate human and cannot wait to be reincarnated as one. He looks forward to one day meeting Denny on the street in his human form.
As he reflects on the recollections of his short life, Enzo ponders the most important of the things he has learned from observing humans. Among Enzo's reflections are "sometimes we simply have to believe" and "that which you manifest is before you." At the end of the novel, Denny has learned as much from Enzo as Enzo has learned from him.

1. The Art of Racing in the Rain is not the typical "dog story" told from the perspective of a master who inevitably loses his pet during a tearful ending. Rather, this novel narrated by the dog himself. If you were to have a dog describe your life after observing your habits and mannerisms for a lifetime, what do you think he would have learned? What would he have to say about your priorities or daily rythums? Your family? Your attitude and outlook on life? Is this what you want your life to be seen as?

2. Enzo is able to learn a lot of valuable lessons from observing the art of racing with Denny. As Enzo ponders Denny's technique on a Florida track, he acknowledges one important part of racing. He states, "When a driver reacts, it's important to remember that a car is only as good as its tires. If the tires lose traction, nothing else matters." This statement can be interpreted many ways, depending on your personal background, memories, and history. What does this observation mean to you? What was one specific experience where you could directly relate to what Enzo says?


Megan L.11-12 said...

RACHAEL!! HI...also, I noticed your Mods 5-6 have O capitalized. I thought it was funny. Anyways...

1. If a dog described my life he would probably see that I am too fast to enjoy the little things that he has all the time in the world to see, although he would notice (at least I hope) that I do find joy in the little things like laying on hard wood floors and sunshine through my kitchen windows and taking naps on my front lawn. I think if my dog described my life he would see that although I rarely take time to notice the roses, I smell them anyway. I learn all the necessary rules of survival, and I guess some morals too but rarely do I ever follow them. He would say that I'm reckless and yet still conscientious when it matters. I'm proud of who I am right now and how I view the world, and although it may not be the "American Ideal" of how a person should live, it's how I live and if my dog ever described me as anything but me, it just wouldn't really be the truth.

2. In my opinion, Enzo is trying to tell the audience that you're reactions to situations, either good or bad, are only going to be as sound as your mind. If your mind is crazy and out of control and unfocused, your reactions will be crazy out of uncontrol spastic movements. Without the "tires" to keep your sanity tractioned (not a word) to the ground, there's no way you can keep racing through life.

Kelsey M. 13-14 said...

1. I think he would learn that everything happens for a reason. I think he would think sometimes my priorities might not be exactly like they sould but in the end everything usually turns out okay. I think if a dog was watching me he would see that sometimes I don't have the best outlook on life but I try to. I don't think that what he has seen so far of my life is what I would want my life to be seen but a dog's lifetime is so much shorter then that of a human's so it would be hard for the dog to learn what your whole life is about.

Rachael B MOds 5-6 said...

I think it's really good that you can be completely honest with yourself. Acknowledging that you are aware of your imperfections and openly allow others to see them as well is an admirable trait. It takes a special kind of person to be completely satisfied with themselves and continue traveling down the path that isn't necessarily the most socially acceptable one. And I think in this novel, that is one of the points that Enzo is trying to get across: humankind sticks to routines that not only make then miserable but also prevent them from truly enjoying life. If what makes you happy sometimes involves ignoring the hype and enjoying life in your own particular ways, GO FOR IT!!! ALso, I really agree with the way you interpreted Enzo's quote. Without a stable sense of mind and common sense, there is no way that a human can lead a life that is interesting and beneficial. Even though creativity is a must, rationality is just as crucial for keeping a steady pace in conquering your own corner of the universe.

Rachael B MOds 5-6 said...


I agree. A dog's life is so short that although he may absorb a lot of useful information and helpful life lessons, it is impossible for him to learn everything there is about someone who hasn't even reached their second decade on this earth. A person can lead a rebellious few teenage years but grow up to become a doctor. Priorities, people and the natural occurances such as death and love can really shape a person. And almost always, these are things that don't happen within the first fifteen years of a person's life. Secondly, it's good that you know that everything in your life isn't exactly how you always will want it to be. THat shows that you are mature enough to acknowlege the need for change and that as your grow, you will be able to instigate that change with the determination and wisdom that increases with age.