Author of unintended ‘dog book’ visits Avon
Enzo is a philosophical old soul who loves his family, adores going as fast as possible on the racetrack, believes in reincarnation and has learned much of what he knows from watching television. Enzo is a dog. A mutt, really, who is convinced he will come back in his next life a human being. A National Geographic Channel documentary told him as much.Enzo is also the much-loved narrator of Garth Stein’s novel, “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” The book was published in 2008 and since has been printed in 23 languages. The hardcover did well – remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for a few weeks – but the paperback has done remarkably well. It’s been on the list for upwards of 123 weeks, Stein said during an interview earlier this week. “It just keeps on going,” Stein said about its success. “I’m not really formally touring anymore. I’m doing larger community reads events now, which are fun events for me. I get to walk in and have an audience of interested fans who all read the book.”That’s what Stein will likely do tonight at the Avon Public Library, where he’ll speak starting at 6 p.m. Stein visited the Bookworm of Edwards in 2009.”I am thrilled to have Garth back in the valley again,” said Besse Lynch, the marketing manager for The Bookworm. “Sometimes good writers don’t make the best speakers, but this is not true in his case. His gift in telling a great story certainly translates from the page to the podium.”
Many readers, including Amy Gomikiewicz of the Avon Library, didn’t expect they’d enjoy the book as much as they did.”You don’t think you’ll get that sucked into a book narrated by a dog, but you really do,” Gomikiewicz said.Stein, who was a documentary filmmaker before he started writing, said he got the idea to write the book from the perspective of a dog years ago, after watching a Mongolian film called “State of Dogs.” He tucked an idea from that film away. “It was about a belief that nomadic people hold that in their next incarnation, dogs come back as people,” he said. “That’s where the idea was hatched, but it took many years for that idea to turn into a book with a dog narrator.”But Stein didn’t set out to “write a dog book.””I was writing about a human soul trapped in a dog’s body,” he said. “(Enzo) wants two mutually exclusive things. He wants to hurry up and be reincarnated, but he also loves his family so much he doesn’t want to leave them. That was the character that interested me. Honestly, I knew he was a dog, and so I put dog things in there -like smelling cancer – but I didn’t in a calculated way go ‘people like dogs, I’m going to exploit that.'”
It was the new point of view that appealed most to Stein. “My philosophy is the point of fiction is … to take story elements that we can manipulate and heighten and shed light on the human condition and do it from a unique perspective that people can learn from … so a custody battle doesn’t break new ground, but told from the point of view of a dog, we see it play out in a new way.”Kelly Mitchell, the cataloguing specialist at the Avon Library, read the more recently published young readers edition of the book with the mother/daughter book club she started nearly five years ago in Eagle. “The girls really liked the book,” Mitchell said. “All of them are big dog lovers, and they liked the whole viewpoint of the dog. We’ve read so many different kinds of books and they’re graduating from the younger books to older, more difficult topics -not all mystery or happy books – and we thought this was a good transition book for that.”Mitchell said she hopes Stein writes another book from Enzo’s perspective. Is that a possibility?”I’m firmly adhering to the one dog book, per author, per life rule,” Stein said. Instead, he’s busy working on his next book, a “multi-generational family saga. It’s a ghost story, but not a traditional ghost story. It’s a northwest spiritual tale.”High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.