Dog’s eye view casts glance at Vail Valley
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Writing a book from the perspective of a dog isn’t necessarily accepted in the publishing industry, says author Garth Stein, who will visit the Vail Valley Monday.
His agent, upon reading the first draft of Stein’s book, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” which is, in fact, told from the point of view of a dog, told Stein that he was ruining his career.
“The thing is, I really had faith that there would be an audience for this book,” Stein said this week from San Francisco, where he was on tour for the paperback release of the book. “So I parted ways with that agent, and I found a new agent who said it was OK to write from a dog’s point of view. And I think we ended up doing fairly well.”
Indeed, the book vaulted onto the New York Times bestseller list and collected a bevy of accolades, including a Seattle Times Best Book of the Year.
The narrator of the story is Enzo, a dog who believes he will be reincarnated – quite soon – as a human. As the novel begins, Enzo is on his last legs in life, lying in a puddle of his own urine and contemplating his own death.
And there is much more going on inside this dog’s head than fetch, eat and sleep. He is a keen observer of the world around him, which revolves around his owner, Denny and Denny’s family. And he loves Steve McQueen and loves to watch the Weather Channel. Also, he shares Denny’s passion for race car driving, which he believes will help him become a better human. He recites racing jargon and maxims: balance, anticipation, patience. Peripheral vision. Driving by the seat of your pants. Your car goes where you eyes go. A driver must never remember.
The plot zeroes in on Denny and his family as the clan forms and then unravels. Family drama is a topic that Stein has tackled in his two previous novels, “Raven Stole the Moon” and “How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets.”
Writers write about things they have connections to, Stein said, and family drama is something he knows and feels connected with.
“What I do have is a family,” he said “I do have a father and a mother and a sister and a family relationship that was certainly charged when I was growing up because my sister had a very serious form of epilepsy, and it really affected the entire family, and so I do tend to write about family dramas because that’s something that, in a sense, I’ve studied. It’s my life study, if you will. So that’s what I have to write about.”
Despite the trappings of the book – the canine narrator, the race-car jargon, the idea of reincarnation and the family drama – Stein said the book is ultimately about controlling your own destiny.
“For me, that message is really in Enzo’s words, his mantra, ‘That which you manifest is before you,'” said Stein, who set the book in his Seattle hometown. “This idea that we control our own lives and our own destinies, and oftentimes it’s easier in this world to abdicate that responsibility and to point the finger elsewhere and say, ‘Oh, woe is me. It’s someone else’s fault that I’m in this position.’ Enzo would say you’re always where you are because you put yourself there on some level, whether it’s conscious or unconscious.”
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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