Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

I am a habitual reader, a speed reader, and I make up my mind about books fairly quickly in the early pages. Sometimes, when a book appears to have some value but the scene and character-building activity bores me, I kick it into high gear and blow through 50-100 pages almost as fast as I can turn the pages. If I start a book, I almost always finish it, but often more as a physical exercise than from a love of or interest in the literature. Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain started off with a bang, with a description of the main character’s canine limitations and impending death and the relationship between Enzo, the dog, and Denny, the dog’s partner in life and the human main character. By the third page you have the Big Picture of almost everything that is going to happen in the book, you just don’t have the details and everything is in the details.

Racing in the Rain is filled with reminders of my motorcycle safety training instructor career and some moments that made me recall my motocross days, too. Some of my favorite quotes follow:

  • “No race was ever won in the first corner but many have been lost there.” Denny Swift
  • “It’s not about a heavier foot. It’s about feel.” Denny
  • “In racing, your car goes where your eyes go.” Denny
  • “The great driver finds a way to keep racing.” Denny
  • “There’s no dishonor in losing a race. There is only dishonor when you don’t race because you’re afraid to lose.” Denny
  • ‘The best drivers focus only on the present. Never dwelling on the past, never committing to the future. Reflection must come at a later time.’ – Enzo (the dog)
  • ‘When I’m in a race car, I’m the creator of my own destiny.” Denny

Eve: How come you go through the turns so much faster than the other cars?

Denny Swift: Well, most drivers are afraid of the rain, because it’s an unpredictable element. They’re forced to react to it. And if they’re reacting at speed, then they’re probably too late, so they should be afraid of it.

Eve: Well, I’m afraid just watching it.

Denny Swift: Yeah, but if you intentionally make the car do something, you don’t have to predict. You control the outcome.

Eve: So you skid the car before it skids itself?

Denny Swift: Yeah. Yeah. When I’m in a race car, I’m the creator of my own destiny. “That which you manifest is before you.” Create your own conditions, and rain is just rain.

  • Enzo: [voice over] In racing, your car goes where your eyes go. A driver who cannot tear his gaze from the wall will inevitably meet that wall. But the driver who looks down the track as he feels his tires break free, that driver will maintain control of his car and his destiny. I realized this was what Denny had done. He had manifested a win because he knew we needed one. Enzo: [voice over] It turned out to be the 1989 Luxembourg Grand Prix in which the Irish driver, Kevin Finnerty York, finished victorious while driving the final twenty laps with only two gears. A true champion can accomplish things a normal person would consider impossible. Denny just needed to remember that. Know who you are on the track with”.
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