Monday, August 24, 2009

Human in the Next Life

Garth Stein cleverly chooses a dog as the narrator for The Art of Racing in the Rain. The dog has reached the climax of his life and begins to reminisce about it. He is purchased by Denny, a race car driver, when he is just a puppy. Enzo grows up with Denny to see him get married and have a baby girl named Zoe. He is always the loyal companion that provides strength for the family as it experiences unexpected trials and tribulations.

As touching as this story was, there were many moments that made me laugh, especially, when Enzo tells his version of evolution stating that the dog is closer to the human than the chimpanzee. His rationale is hilarious. He also obsesses over his lack of opposable thumbs and a facile tongue which means his only form of communication with his human family are his gestures that he uses quite effectively. Lastly, there's the stuffed zebra that Enzo witnesses attacking all of Zoe's stuffed animals which reminded me of my own dogs' obsession with stuffed animals. However, the zebra returns often throughout the story as it represents the fear and anger harboring inside us all.

Throughout the book, Enzo shares the wisdom he has gained from living in a human world, from watching television, and from his observations of race-car driving. Through these experiences, Enzo tries to understand the true yet contradictory nature of man - both the kindness and the cruelty, the humility and the pride, the love and the betrayal. But, in the end, he learns "that which we manifest is before us." Therefore, Enzo tries to make the best of his canine life because he believes he will be reincarnated as a human in his next life (this belief was sparked by a documentary on Mongolia that he watched as a pup). Furthermore, he believes the purpose of his current life is to learn all he can about humans and strive to be as close to human as possible so he can be reunited with his family in the next life as a man.

There's so much we can learn from our canine companions: How they live for today, not dwelling on the past or the uncertainties of the future; how they enjoy the simplest of pleasures in life, like belly rubs and running freely on fresh-cut grass; how they love their pack unconditionally; and how their loyalty is unequivocal. This book reminds us that there's so much we take for granted that we could learn to be a little more human by looking to man's best friend.

Gizmo and Eva

1 comment:

  1. Had never heard of this book, but after your post will definitely pick it up!


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