In keeping with our recent motorsports slant, I thought it'd be acceptable to offer my take on Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain. If you've read it—and based on the fact that it stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 156 weeks, it’s highly likely you have—please forgive me for delivering this review almost four years late. But if you haven't, do yourself a favor and find a copy.
The Art of Racing in the Rain is told from the point of view of Enzo, a dog who's certain he'll be reincarnated as a human. Enzo carefully studies the actions and behavior of Denny, his master, who's an aspiring racecar driver.
In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave. The dog's master whispers in the dog's ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life. Then his tail is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat of fat is cut off and placed in his mouth to sustain his soul for its journey; before he is reincarnated, the dog's soul is freed to travel the land, to run across the high desert plains for as long as it would like.
I learned that from a program on the National Geographic Channel, so I believe it is true. Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready.
I am ready.
Other than one (1) Lance Armstrong reference, there's absolutely nothing in The Art of Racing in the Rain that's directly related to cycling. I assure you, though, that much of the way in which Stein describes auto racing could easily be used to explain the nuances of high-performance bicycling.
The car goes where the eyes go.
How many times have you entered a corner just a bit too hot and found yourself heading straight toward something you don't want to hit instead of aiming your eyes beyond the corner?
The bike goes where your eyes go.
This is a rule of racing: No race has ever been won in the first corner; many have been lost there.
It's funny how few up-and-coming bike racers truly grasp this concept.
But The Art of Racing in the Rain is about more than just competition—it's a story of the way one man deals with adversity delicately, yet with the determined drive of a champion.
The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles—preferably of his own making—in order to triumph.