formula one is not nascar

Sunday, February 3

one of the many things that happens at bookseller conferences is, reps from publishers get to pitch their favorite new titles. generally they have no more than eight or so minutes to get through a list that can be as long as ten or twelve titles, so they've got only a very little time to get your attention.

The Art of Racing in the Rain was one that definitely got my attention. the rep said something about "NASCAR and Buddhism" and then "narrated by a dog." you better believe that got my attention! so, at the author reception that night, i found Garth Stein and told him as much: "your rep said it was about Buddhism, NASCAR, and a dog, and i had to meet the author who could write that book."

the poor guy. he sighed and said "i'm going to have to talk to those Harper people. it's Formula One, not NASCAR!"

at the time, i nodded sympathetically, not having a clue what the difference might be.

folks, the highest praise i can give to this book is that i now care about that difference. Racing in the Rain is an incredible piece of work, one that i will be handselling with gusto. Enzo, our canine narrator, is the perfect medium to tell this story: the story of Denny, a man with talent (at Formula One. not NASCAR!) who faces not "insurmountable odds", but rather every day odds taken up a notch -- something that makes him that much more of a hero. his family saga is heartbreaking in its commonality, and his custody battle for his daughter, while more extreme than many, is by no means unusual in its cruelty, its hopelessness, and its redemption.

the characters are perfectly drawn, seen in all their glory and misery by faithful Enzo, who may be part terrier and is definitely part sage. the backdrop of Formula One is made absolutely fascinating with the minutiae of racing greats, tactics, terms, and Zen-like philosophy (it's Zen, not Buddhism!). Denny's daughter Zoe, especially, is the light at the end of the tunnel -- a perfectly normal, perfectly lovable child. and the zebra ... well, for that, you'll have to read the book yourself.

The Art of Racing in the Rain comes out in May. run, do not walk, to your nearest indie bookstore and buy yourself the hardback. a first edition will, mark my words, be worth something one of these days!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read this book after Winter Institute when everybody was talking about it and it is THE BEST BOOK I'VE EVER READ!!!! I want the author to sign my copy - it'll be worth a mint someday!

advanced reader said...

anonymous: he signed mine "Beware the zebra!" how fantastic is that?!