2010 essay entrants were asked to answer one of the following questions:
How did it make you feel to have dog narrate the story?
Which ‘Enzoism’ (Enzo’s favorite sayings) did you think was most essential to the story?
2010 -The Winners
Six winners were chosen from among 18 essays to have lunch with Garth Stein, author of “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” this year’s selection in the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project.
Previously a book review contest, this year’s contest took a different approach and asked writers to consider one of two questions: “How did it make you feel to have a dog narrate the story?” or “Which ‘Enzoism’ (Enzo’s favorite sayings) did you think was most essential to the story.”
Entries were reviewed by members of the Tale for Three Counties Council Inc. who received copies of the submissions in which the writer’s identity and location were not included. Judges then voted for which entries they liked the best; the six highest vote getters were selected as winners.
The six winners gathered Friday at the D&R Depot in Le Roy for a two-hour lunchtime discussion in which Stein shared personal stories and offered an inside look at how he created “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”
Here are the winning entries, in alphabetical order:
Ann Burlingham, Perry
Enzo is a classic unreliable narrator, as, while he is highly informed by virtue of his extensive television watching, he is unaware of both gaps in his knowledge and in his understanding and perceptions of himself and humans.
Stein’s use of a dog narrator — especially an intelligent, literate dog obsessed with reincarnation — made me read the book as a fable. As such, it makes the unlikely events of the story and the satisfying yet even more unlikely ending(s) more acceptable, as they need not be realistic.
Enzo’s wish to come back as a man keeps a great deal of focus on the qualities and character of the humans in the story and on the dog, pushing the reader to judge her own character against that of the fabulous dog, just as Aesop’s animal stories are meant to reflect human behavior, good, ill, and foolish, back at human hearers.
Sally Capurso, Bergen
“That which you manifest is before you” is the thematic “Enzoism” most essential to the story.
It can be restated as “the car goes where the eyes go.”
Just as Denny practiced and analyzed racing tapes, track conditions, and driving techniques to realize his dream of ultimately becoming a champion driver, so did he systematically evaluate the custody battle with his in-laws to regain custody of Zoe. He recognized the need for patience and perseverance while keeping his eyes on the prize, never veering from his vision. Near the end, just as Enzo could see past the building of the apartment to find the Space Needle “whisking visitors” to the sky, so could Denny see past the immediate tragedies of his life — the death of his wife and the subsequent custody battle — to pursue his goals. If we can visualize what we want/need, then we work to create that destiny.
Linda Daviau, Batavia
Being a life long “cat person” I must say facing a book being narrated by a dog was a new challenge for me. How could a dog have the intelligence and insight to share a believable story?
I was much surprised to find myself totally absorbed in this tale of a family’s fight for love, life and togetherness. In sharing Enzo with us, author Garth Stein, brought feelings, wit and wisdom to what could have been a predictable tale. Enzo soon became alive to me with his unique way of sharing life’s ups and downs.
Throughout “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” the wisdom that Stein shares through Enzo tugs at you. To quote Enzo, “…new possibilities emerge for those who are prepared, for those who are ready.” I guess ultimately, this “cat person” was ready to believe that a wonderful story could be told by this extraordinary dog.
Meghan Hauser, Perry
From “Pinocchio” to “The Jungle Book”‘s King Louie, books are full of characters longing to be human. So it is with Enzo, the canine narrator of “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein.
With a dog narrator, Stein is allowed certain privileges to better develop his story. Characters readily divulge secrets when only “the dog” is around. Enzo’s canine abilities allow Stein to foreshadow Eve’s developing illness. Enzo’s laments about the limitations of his current form and his training for his future human-ness allow Stein to make interesting commentaries on human relationships.
The all-seeing dog as storyteller mostly works, but I balked when Enzo imparted knowledge that even the human characters seemed not to possess, such as the scientific name for Athlete’s Foot. Still, I enjoyed the insights and lightness a furry narrator brought to what would have otherwise been a sobering story.
Elizabeth Saleh, Corfu
I was quite skeptical about a book narrated by a dog, however, once I started reading I was delighted. This book is popular with dog owners who understand dogs are capable of sophisticated thoughts. Garth Stein may exaggerate a dog’s capabilities, but he puts into words many of the thoughts and frustrations dog owners know dogs have.
The author does an excellent job using Enzo to present a view that is objective yet part of the action. A dog narrating, gives us the opportunity to step out of ourselves and view life from a different perspective. Enzo’s view of TV and the world was at the same time thought provoking and quite entertaining.
Enzo gave me a perspective on car racing that changed my disdain for the sport. I wonder if Garth Stein could come up an animal that can give me a more favorable view professional wrestling?
Joyce Thompson-Hovey, Pavilion
Being a proud owner of many dogs over the years, I had often wondered what my loving pet might really be thinking! With this book, you experience life as seen through the eyes of a dog, one moment heart-wrenching, the next humorous, but always insightful.
The “Enzoism” that I felt was the most essential to the story was when he said — “Deep in the kernel of our family existed a bond. However things might change around us, we would always be together.” Denny had the ability to focus on the next turn, whether it is in a race or in life, and he never gave up. Eve was afraid, but grew to realize that this was not the end. Enzo knew that a racer must embrace the rain, and all four of them were able through their bond to each other to meet and conquer the “zebra within” and the uncertainties that life threw at them.
Dogs are the greatest! It is especially true for the dog, Enzo, in
Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. He is much more than a dog. He is a
conduit, and a moral compass among other things and he adds much
compassion and love to the story. In short he is much like the dog in my
life. I rely on the comic relief and unconditional love. She loves me
when no one else can and she makes it look easy.
Garth Stein is a deeply philosophical writer with great versatility as
evidenced in this book. He ties racing analogies with real life
situations and drama. He creates characters with depth and personality.
His spirituality shines through in the character of Enzo who is indeed
an old soul as it says on the cover. I would love to learn more about
his beliefs and am greatly looking forward to more from this author.
Julie Caton, Oakfield
Art of Racing in the Rain: A Book Review
You ask: what’s it like to have a dog write a novel?
It’s clever, emotional, and brightly delightful.
When one is reading deeply into Garth Stein’s works,
Enzo, his buddy, offers philosophical perks.
The dog reflects on the art of driving in the rain,
And he gives us ideas on handling life and its pain.
Enzo suggests one should support others and not judge;
Even towards their accuser, he didn’t hold a grudge.
He shared his delight of running snout low to the ground;
Emotions have distinctive smells – an idea so profound.
To protect his loved ones, Enzo held no ego at all.
Yet he was a true champion throughout his life’s squall.
I’ll not forget: that if I drive smart I’ll win in the end.
It’s this saying of Enzo’s that made me shift gears and bend
And write a book review as poetry – in the end.
Jessica Beal, Batavia
One essential “Enzoism” is: “Your car goes where you eyes go.” If you
keep your eyes on your goals and do not deviate, you will achieve your
dreams. After Eve’s death, Denny’s mind is set on racing and custody of
Zoe. At one critical point, Denny’s resolve begins to crumble as he
becomes close to signing away full custody of Zoe. Luckily, Enzo steps
in and keeps Denny’s eyes on his goals by destroying the paperwork.
Denny continues to fight successfully for custody and earns a racing
career. If he would have not received full custody of Zoe, he would not
have been able to live in Italy and pursue racing. Denny did not give up
despite plenty of setbacks and kept his eyes on his goals. Denny steered
his life accurately and earned his dreams by making his life go where he
wanted it, just like a race car.
Jackie Reynolds, Medina
Memoir, of a different kind. If a dog could write, this would be an
autobiography by Enzo, an intelligent Lab-mix. The author has brought
Enzo to life, by having him narrate his dog life with human emotions,
and an interesting dog’s perspective. Dedicated and loyal to his owner
Denny Swift, not only his best friend, he also enjoyed sharing his
passion for Formula 1 car racing. Life like racing, has twists and
turns, but handling the track or life whether it’s raining good or evil,
takes a special talent. A talent, “That which we manifest is before us.”
“The car goes where the eyes go,” a good read for the mature reader.
Ever wondered what a dog could possibility be thinking, and are dogs
capable of emotions? You’ll be a believer and never look at your dog the
same why again, after this story.
Frances McNulty, Batavia
Question: How did it make you feel to have a dog narrate a story?
My initial reaction: how weird is that?
Upon learning the theme and details about the selected work I was
actually somewhat disappointed and put off by the concept. Of the vast
number of books available – why this one?
I will admit to having occasionally wondered “what must that animal be
thinking?” while watching some dog’s or other critter’s actions,
expressions or mannerisms, especially in their response to us human beings.
But I was pleasantly surprised, and enjoyed this clever and imaginative
book. The author did a great job convincing me that I was in fact
hearing the story from Enzo, learning his own thoughts and observations
on the events, and becoming almost oblivious to the fact it was a dog’s
I came away with a pretty good answer to my question, and now feel
closer to knowing just what that animal may be thinking.
Maria Walczak, Attica
Always having lived with dogs, I have wondered how and what my
four-legged pets felt. I’ve read a great deal about physiology of dogs,
and what many experts say about animal traits and “feelings.” Thus, I
thoroughly enjoyed Enzo’s observations on auto racing, a metaphor for
life, his family, and his dog’s life, with its limitations of not being
able to speak, not having opposable thumbs, not really tasting his food,
since he eats so fast.
The many “enzoisms” in the story I believe are the reason so many
readers truly enjoy the book. They are his, and can be our, mantras for
The “enzoism” that is most essential to the story is “That which you
manifest is before you.” We need to remember that we create our own
destiny, good or bad
Krysia Mager, Batavia
Ever wonder what your dog is thinking? As they turn their head to the
side, raise their eyebrow and stare at you while you continue to talk
baby talk them? I never really put much thought into that question until
I read, “Racing in the Rain.” As the story is viewed from the eyes of a
dog, I can’t help but stare at my own dog, Stella, and think that she
can understand me. Yes, she does know how to sit and shake, which were
taught at an early age. However, when I had a rough day and she sits
besides me with comfort and loyalty eluding from her eyes, it’s then I
know that there is something more going on. “Racing in the Rain” shows
us that no matter what twists and turns our lives take, relationships
and endurance are the most important. Viewing the story from Enzo’s
point of view made me feel grateful for having a friend like him who I
can share my life with and who will be my co-pilot on the race track of
life, both in the pit and in the fast lane.
Cheryl Kowalik, Batavia
I fell in love with Enzo starting with page 1 and had to grab the box of
tissues. Garth Stein did a great job of writing from a dog perspective
about life’s happiness, excitement, compassion and sadness to tears.
Through Enzo we felt the pain and joy that humans experience throughout
life. Enzo knew way before any of the humans did that Denny’s wife Eve
had an illness. What a special time when Eve asked to have Enzo spend
one of her last nights with her and anyone who has lost a loved one
could relate to this part of the story with Enzo of the pain you feel
when you lose someone you love. The true love and protection Enzo showed
to Eve and their daughter Zoe was written with such compassion that if
you ever owned a family dog you could relate. When Denny took Enzo on
the racetrack for the ride of his life, Enzo’s narrating made me feel
the wind and speed of the car, and made my heart race. This is a book I
couldn’t put down, as I couldn’t wait to find out what Enzo’s next
experience of life was going to be.
Leatha Taber, Albion
Enzo, a dog, narrates “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” a novel by Garth
Stein which is the 2010 “A Tale for Three Counties.” Anyone who has ever
shared a home with a dog knows and wonders what that dog is thinking.
Enzo tells the story of the family he loves: how everyone entered it,
the triumphs, the tragedies, and why he wants to be human. Enzo is a
very kind narrator who really anticipates having opposable thumbs and
the opportunity to put into practice all that he has learned about being
a great driver of race cars and a wonderful human being. The reader of
this novel is very complimented by Enzo’s opinion of humanity and
believes whole heartedly that he will be a wonderful member of it.
Darlene Markle, Darien Center
Enzo, Enzo, Enzo. How many of us love our dogs and our dogs endear
themselves to us? This book is fascinating! My favorite “Enzoism” is
“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.” (P. 135). In our present day, where
there seems to be a lack of esteeming heroes, this book gives us
inspiration to reassesses our definition of our “heroes” and to again
define a true hero with the ability to overcome, no matter what comes
his way, and to persevere, as Denny did in all of his tribulations. A
hero continues on with hope, trust and water!
Dave Stevens, Le Roy
I felt fine knowing a dog was narrating it. Once I saw an old man on TV.
He worked at an animal shelter taking care of injured animals. He looked
straight into the camera and said: “There’s one thing you’ve got to
remember — dogs are a lot more intelligent than people.” I knew exactly
what he meant. He meant that dogs never torture and abuse other living
creatures the way that human beings do.
I have read other books narrated by animals. One of the best is
“Traveler” by Richard Adams, the author of “Watership Down.” “Traveler”
is narrated by Robert E. Lee’s horse, which was of course named
Traveler. I didn’t feel stupid reading that book, either. In fact, that
book provided a lot more insight into the Civil War than any other book
I ever read about it.
There have been many books about man’s compassion for dogs — Lassie,
Old Yeller, Rin Tin Tin, to name a few. Why not have a book about a
dog’s compassion for a man? It’s a natural sympathy that took thousands
of years to develop. I once wrote a poem about this bond between man and
dog. The first line reads: “Collie pups need no introduction: They’re
very outgoing.” Who could be friendlier than collie pups, unless maybe
Irish Setters? When my sister and I were little an old Irish Setter used
to visit us as he roamed around town. He name was Terry. My grandfather
used to raise Collie pups on his farm and my father used to hate it when
he sold them. I once found an old poem about it that my father wrote
when he was about eight. Until then, I didn’t know that he every wrote a
poem about anything. I know a Philippino student at the University of
Rochester that wrote a poem based on the fact that DOG was GOD spelled
backwards. This reminded me of Enzo’s belief that he would become a
human when he was reincarnated.