Earlier this year I picked up Alexandra Horowitz's nonfiction book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know. Horowitz is a cognitive scientist and explains why dogs act the way they do, essentially creating a road map to better understand how dogs think and perceive the world around them. I found the book very interesting and when I came across The Art of Racing in the Rain, it sounded like if would be a fictionalized version of Inside of a Dog. Narrated by Enzo the dog, the novel is told through his point of view, which offers an honest look into the lives of his family. It is less about Enzo and more about the turbulent life of his owner, Denny, a race car driver, and his wife and child.
This is the first "dog" novel I have read. I picked it up in an effort to lighten my reading diet after I was a bit nauseated from too many classics all at once. It worked. The novel is straightforward and charming. Stein uses Denny's passion of racing cars as a metaphor for the quickness and difficulties of life. I did roll my eyes a few times, as the use of this metaphor became cliche and the voice of the narrator sometimes felt contrived, but overall it was a quick and enjoyable read. The author takes great liberties as to what a dog can actually understand, but if you can be open minded to the premise, I think you will enjoy the novel well enough.
So much of language is unspoken. So much of language is compromised of looks and gestures and sounds that are not words. People are ignorant of the vast complexity of their own communication.With that being said, I did have one gripe; the narrator didn't actually sound like a dog. If a dog were narrating, I would expect it to sound more excited, perhaps more disjointed than the voice Stein created; a stream of consciousness of sorts, a "I'm so happy to be here but my mind moves a mile a minute" sort of voice. I think if Stein had made our narrator sound more like a dog and less like a human, I would have enjoyed this novel more. It is a pleasant read, but for me it didn't move any mountains.
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2008