by Garth Stein
Reader's Choice 9/10
Guest reviewer: Betty Hafner’s dog, Augie
I wanted to give this writing business a try because some guy named Garth Stein who wrote a couple of books let a dog tell the story in his newest book “The Art of Racing in the Rain”. It seems like it’s some big deal! My owner, Betty, wouldn’t put it down and take me for a walk when she was supposed to, and lots of times she laughed so loud she’d interrupt my nap. Then, when I was trying to get back to sleep, she’d yell to Will, the big guy who lives with us, and read something out loud that this dog said and they’d both laugh.
The dog’s name is Enzo and if you ask me, he sounds like a real show off. He said something insulting I can’t get over, “Everyone knows that shepherds and poodles aren’t especially smart. They’re responders and reactors, not independent thinkers.” Then my poodle blood boiled when I heard he said, “They’re clever and quick, but they don’t think outside the box. They’re all about convention.” Just because he’s half terrier, he thinks he’s from some superior gene pool!
I, myself, can’t read, because without opposable thumbs (one of Enzo’s big gripes too) I can’t hold a book, so everything I’m telling you comes from what Betty read out loud. This Enzo is an old guy, ready to kick the bucket, when he tells the story of his life with his owner Denny who is trying to be a professional racecar driver. Before Denny’s wife Eve and their kid Zoe came along, Denny and Enzo watched racing videos together. Denny explained all kinds of things to him about what it takes to handle the problems a driver faces. In racing they say a car goes where the driver’s eyes go, so Enzo makes a big deal about that, like “Such a simple concept, yet so true: that which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny.”
If you ask me, that dog spends way too much time watching television. Once when Enzo was a pup, he saw a show on the National Geographic Channel about people in Mongolia and how they revere their dogs because they think the dogs come back as humans after they die. That gave Enzo the idea that he should learn as much as he could so he’d be ready for his next life. He works hard at it. He says, “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.”
I guess some important things go on in Denny’s family because when Betty was reading the end of the book, I had a really long wait for my walk. It must have had something to do with a courtroom because Enzo had to tell the story based on “established legal practices as [he has] gleaned from various television shows, most especially the Law & Order series and its spinoffs . . .” Geez. Television again.
"Balance, anticipation, patience,” Enzo says again and again. It’s something Denny taught him about racing and I guess somehow it helps Denny in the mess he’s in. All I know is that when Betty put the book down, she had drops of salty water rolling down her face.