The Art of Racing in the Rain, the story of DE instructor and aspiring race car driver Denny Swift as told by his dog, Enzo, is an enjoyable read full of driving, racing and life wisdom. The book’s title first caught my attention last Summer, soon after I survived a rain-soaked driver’s education (DE) weekend at Grattan Raceway. I’d returned a true believer in there being an “art” to driving in rain (even if my own driving had been anything but artistic) and the idea of reading more about driving technique seemed very appealing.
Denny Swift, the book’s hero, drives a Porsche 993 Cup car
I have to admit that, at first, I was hesitant to read a book written from a dog’s perspective, even if the dog was a car lover (disclaimer: I have a dog, Lucy, and generally consider myself a dog person. But there are different kinds of dog people. ). I quickly warmed up to the book when the inner book jacket promised wisdom I could appreciate: “Enzo [the dog]….sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.” Once I read that Denny Swift, the book’s hero, drives a Porsche (993 Cup car, to be precise), I was sold.
The Art of Racing in the Rain quickly draws the reader in to Enzo’s world. The book’s narrative style is simple and elegant, flowing as nicely as a well-driven lap. Enzo, the canine narrator, is observant and full of comedy. He adores his owner as only a dog can, often waxing poetic about him: “He is so brilliant. He shines. He’s beautiful with his hands that grab things and tongue that says things and the way he stands and chews his food...”. Poetic, but always entertaining is truly the spirit of this enjoyable book.
The beauty of a character like Denny is that there are quite a few of him out there: men (and women) who love cars, love what cars can do, and understand the subtleties involved in driving. The ones who spend nearly every Summer weekend at the track teaching DE students (like me) free of charge, for the sheer love of it and so they can get their own cars out on track to practice their craft. The ones who are full of talent, but for one reason or another – wrong place, wrong time, family obligations, lack of funds – have not moved on to the racing circuit. The Art of Racing in the Rain is a tribute to all of them, as are the DE stories within it.
Take, for example, the time Denny is hired as a driver in a commercial. He takes Enzo with him to Thunderhill Raceway in California. Since the track is new to him, he takes “the street exhaust” out to learn it. Enzo (who, until then, has spent his life listening to driving stories and watching in-car video with his master but has never actually been in the car with him at the race track) hops in. As Enzo’s anticipation builds, so does the reader’s. When Denny asks, “do you want to try a hot lap?” Enzo barks twice – the sign for “faster!”
It turns out Enzo loves speed, and it’s a good thing for those of us who do, too. Reading about the experience of lapping a new race track, the instructor’s feedback and the passenger’s emotions as the corners flew by awakened many exciting memories for this reader. It reminded me of why I look forward to summer weekends spent at the track learning from local talent, enjoying the cars and chatting with friends. By the end of Enzo’s ride ‘round Thunderhill, I echoed his excitement: “yes, one more lap. One more lap. Forever one more lap. I live my life for one more lap…”
Wherever your eyes go, the car goes
The Art of Racing in the Rain indeed delivers on its promise to shed light on life’s challenges using racing wisdom. “That which you manifest is before you” is, perhaps Enzo’s most oft-quoted maxim. Uttered by a Frenchman at Denny’s first DE, it permeates the book in various forms, most notably as “wherever your eyes go, the car goes.” All of you who have participated in DEs have heard this statement many times, particularly in discussions concerning spinning or heading toward walls/trees/other obstacles while at speed. A few of us have found this to be true, for better or worse. Enzo elaborates on this statement quite a bit, relating it to Denny’s wife’s disease, Denny’s decisions under pressure and life itself. A simple idea, but a very true one in both the realms of automobiles and life: if you believe you’ll go somewhere, you probably will.
As the book progresses, Denny is presented with various opportunities (an endurance race, the European circuit, etc.) he is forced to pass on because of one challenge or another. As the reader, it’s easy to sympathize with Denny when opportunities are lost. But Enzo is wise – he reinforces that while at the time it may seem as if one is missing the perfect chance, all things happen for a reason. What is meant to happen will. Thus, The Art of Racing in the Rain delivers just the right dose of spirituality, balanced beautifully with plenty of racing and dog humor in between.
The Art of Racing in the Rain has a sweet and satisfying ending
However, it would be unfair to call it predictable because Enzo’s tale is definitely more about the process—the race—than the finish line. The ending made me smile big: I was happy for Denny and for his “victories” on the track and off. In the end, getting to do what we love in life is indeed a victory, as is getting there gracefully and with our principles intact.
You can get your copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain on Amazon.
Today's review is written by our very own PorscheGirl (aka Valerie). Valerie is the proud owner of both a Porsche 996 Cabriolet and a brand new Cayman S (her new track toy.) Valerie is a frequent contributor to PorschePurist, webmistress for her region of the PCA and budding Motorsport promoter.
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