The Art of Racing in the Rain is a story about a delusional man who believes he is a dog. Trapped by an unwavering belief in his lack of thumbs and aThe Art of Racing in the Rain is a story about a delusional man who believes he is a dog. Trapped by an unwavering belief in his lack of thumbs and a tongue that is designed for human speech, Enzo spends his days at home, watching tv, looking out the window and going out to the yard through his doggie door when the mood strikes. His other physical attributes notwithstanding, his brain with thought patterns that are typical for an introspective older man, born sometime in the early half of the previous century. In other words, he has a philosophical bent and a good vocabulary, but it includes phrases like breasts for milking, birthing hips and bitch with pendulous teats (how he refers to his mother at one point, and which may or may not be how my grandfather might have referred to his own mother).
Enzo lives with a man named Denny, who races cars or teaches racing whenever he gets the opportunity, and otherwise works for a car dealership. Denny is married to Eve, and they have a daughter named Zoe, whose birth Enzo witnessed right there in their home. Enzo, although a terrier mix of some sort, is still a party to many important things in the life of the family, and he knows even more than he can communicate. He acknowledges that he is not always the most credible witness, but from listening to human conversations, being told things directly, and then filling the rest in with episodes of human television shows, he can construct a readable narrative.
In between, we are privy to Enzo's innermost thoughts, and his descriptions of auto racing. It turns out that like Denny, Enzo loves riding fast, and second to that is watching racing on tv, although he has broad tastes and will watch many different things. Enzo intersperses descriptions and opinions about famous racers and races within his story narration, and these are a metaphor for life in general, a life that Enzo can't really live as a dog. But some of the things he watches on tv are documentaries, and he watched a Mongolian documentary once, from which he learned that dogs have many lives, and they can become closer and closer to human in each iteration until they are reborn as a human. That is Enzo's goal.
This book showed up on a list of books that made people cry. Although I can tear up at the drop of a hat--a church hymn or prayer, a touching story--I don't necessarily cry when people think I should. I often don't cry at books or movies that affect other people, and a lot of the books on the list made me more irritated than sad. And even at the beginning of this book, I found Enzo to be a bit stuffy and pretentious, and I put the book down. But I decided I really wanted to get through it. The book did make me teary eyed a number of times until the end where I was flat out ugly crying and had to take a walk. My daughter was crying because of her Calculus homework, which was really taking me out of the moment, so I had to go sit on my porch to finish. Then I walked my own dog and let the tears stream. I haven't cried like that since the month before when I cried about my mother-in-law dying.
The things that are mostly likely to make me cry happen to be the things that turned up in this book: situations that remind you of the impermanence of life, hopes and plans turned to dust when life takes a different turn, the way life just whiles away why you aren't noticing, when you realize that some of the big happy moments, some of the best times of your life are things that can never happen again. There aren't a lot of happy moments in this book, frankly, but there are enough that when things are darker, it's easy to get sucked into nostalgia. When Eve talks about how she is ugly and doesn't want Denny with her, I cried. When Enzo describes what he liked about one of his homes and how he'll miss it, that make me sad for him. Denny is having a great moment, but Enzo knows he is in a completely different state and incapable of participating, it's a crushing feeling. The euphemism for death of moving forward to another happier state is trite and yet capable of provoking a full on cry.
The things I liked about Enzo and this book were the ways in which he was really like a dog. I liked when he described running in snow, pushing his snout in rainy grass, how he is feeling when he destroys some stuffed animals, the way he sometimes doesn't understand human speech as much as he thinks, and the way he retells us things he's mentioned earlier, as if he's forgotten. What I don't like as much is when he is able to interject and change the course of the story based on his intellect. It's quite possible that a dog can change the course of his owner's life with some well placed barks, but to knowingly intervene makes this a different kind of story. And speaking of which, I kept thinking that if Denny talks to Enzo like he really understands, even asking him to bark twice to go faster, why didn't he say: Hey, Enzo, bark once if you understand what I'm saying. Instead he says, "OK, stop looking at me like that, I'm not drinking anymore." If he had asked the dog, would the dog have barked? Perhaps not, knowing that he still lacked the ability to go any further.
With that in mind, however, I sat down with my dog and decided I should give her that chance. I held her in my lap and talked to her, like I generally do (I often speak to her in complete sentences and ask her questions at least three times before I realize she's not going to answer). So I asked her if she understood what I was saying, and I told her to bark once for yes, twice for no. My daughter pointed out I was creating a paradox with the no signal. So then I gave her the option of licking her nose if she understood me. I was feeling pretty confident about this, since she will often lick her nose for her own reasons, but she just stared at me earnestly with her almost black eyes, opening them widely and cocking her head slightly like I do when I'm trying to understand what someone is saying to me in Spanish. I took 6 years of that language in school, you'd think my comprehension would be better. My dog is only 5, so I figure that by age 10 with me continuing to talk to her, she should understand more English. I'll let you know.
The biggest issue I had with this book for me was the actual plot device that served to create the conflict and division that needed to be resolved. It involved a 15 year old girl and her crush, and, like with my dog who bears no resemblance to Enzo as she hates TV and will always sit near the dining room table, the girl in the story bears no resemblance to the 15 or 16 year old girls that I personally know, or the girl that I was. As a 15 year old girl in a story, she's just a large-breasted plot device. At one point Enzo says that Denny allowed the negative to happen to test his mettle, as if Denny deliberately went that way knowingly, instead of just through sheer stupidity, just so he would know he could figure the solution and drive through the problems. In the racing comparisons, there is a lot of talk about how the race is the driver's to lose, even when other driver's do things that get in the way. This whole storyline was rather problematic, but I realize that in some cases, people can fix things in their lives. Clearly Denny couldn't fix everything, and still had to live with grief and the pain of nostalgia that could be waking him up at night as it once did me.
I still root for Denny, Eve, Zoe, and Enzo. While it does seem like Denny (and Eve, for that matter) just lets things happen to him because he doesn't drive the course as mindfully as he could, I want things to work out as they ultimately do. And I can't help but love the dog because he is a dog and not just a stuffy, delusional human....more
My book club chose this as our fantasy book for our October 2015 meeting, and it was most likely a book I wouldn't have come to on my own since I don'My book club chose this as our fantasy book for our October 2015 meeting, and it was most likely a book I wouldn't have come to on my own since I don't read a lot of fantasy, except a number of urban fantasy stories I find on my husband's kindle.
This book is, apparently, set in the Carpathian mountains of Romania, which I really only discovered from reading the glossary. The story concerns 5 sisters who live with their father in their home of Piscul Dracului. That reference, along with the city of Brasov, which is mentioned several times, are enough of a clue for the geographically well informed, but for me, fairy tales that take in heavy forests could just as easily be in the Black Forest of Germany as in Transylvania. Paula, the learned sister, does explain to her cousin why the woods are so helpful to the local people, and she mentioned keeping the Magyars and or Turks from being able to overrun the population, and at that point the geography is a little more clear.
The cousin privy to Paula's lecture is Cezar, who is the de facto villain of the book, although there are darker forces at work, and Cezar, unfortunately, was acted upon by such a force at too young an age. Cezar is arrogant, inconsiderate and does not believe women should be educated. Even in fantasy, it is impossible to get away the harsh patriarchal system and thus the convenient tropes where the people who seem to be doing the most interesting things are the females who shouldn't be because of the cultural expectation. But stories of the fairytale world set in the 15th century (which I'm only assuming from the appearance of a young man named Vlad), are bound to the conventions of this planet. (At least it's not Dune, right? I mean you're in a completely different world with giant spice making worms, but the women still seem to be relegated to dresses and concubinage).
The same forces that set Cezar upon his path in life, have also influenced the second eldest sister, Jenica, who is the narrator of the story. Jenica, or Jena as she is usually called, and her sisters are able to open a portal between the real world and the fairy world on the nights of the full moon. Once a month they do so, and go dancing until dawn. The woods of the fairy are also the same woods they visit in the human world, and the boundaries between realms are somewhat nebulous. It would seem, however, that causing physical damage to the woods in one realm would affect the other. Cezar is haunted by his brother's death which occurred when they were children playing in the woods, and he has a great distrust of any creature that might be from the fairy, particularly the Night Ones, who are the vampires.
This story is interesting because people do actually believe in the witch, Draguta, and the Night Ones. They may use garlic to ward them off, and they go out on hunting parties with pitchforks and torches. The belief and ability to accept the supernatural world makes parts of the story work more easily.
This book draws elements from fairytales like The Twelve Dancing Princesses and the Frog King and whatever the tales are that mention characters like queen illeana or Draguta, the witch, or the leaders of the Night Ones. The story also uses the pretty sister/plain sister device which I am almost certain hasn't worked since Pride and Prejudice. The reader always knows that the sister who isn't beautiful is still clearly alluring to others, and in this book at least, one character goes so far as to snappishly point out that clearly men find Jena attractive. In fact, that's one of the problems in the story, and nothing is so daunting as a single young woman in 15th century Europe who has a powerful, persistent but unwanted suitor...many a story has been written with this theme.
I liked this story, I liked her writing style, I really enjoyed the relationship between Jena and her pet frog, Gogu. I was not necessarily enjoying the part where things first started to go south, but you always have to take the rain to get the rainbow. By the latter half of the book, I was finding the book hard to put down. I went out and found more information about the author, and found she had a number of other books, at least one related to this one. In my mind, then, this story was not going to be resolved in the pages I had left to read, and I was already planning on buying the sequel, which is listed as a companion novel. But, actually, the story did wrap up, and a little too quickly for my taste. I was really enjoying it at the point where a lot of things started to happen, and then it felt rushed. I felt like things could have been drawn out just a bit more, and there were some loose ends. They may come back in the companion novel, but since that is a story that seems mainly to deal with Paula and the eldest sister Tati, I'm not sure.
It was mainly the pacing at the end that made me end up liking it rather than loving it at the end as much as I did earlier on....more
Three books by Katherine Talbot arrived in the mail today, sent to my daughter by her paternal grandfather. I was confused until I read the enclosed lThree books by Katherine Talbot arrived in the mail today, sent to my daughter by her paternal grandfather. I was confused until I read the enclosed letter, which made me realize that these were books of family lore, books I had only heard of, but had never seen. These are the books which, according to my husband, were written by his cousin when she was only 12 years old. I never really understood why a 12 year old was working for an editor, but I thought maybe unpaid internships in the late 70's in NYC were just the thing for precocious pre-teens.
She was actually 16 when she was working for the editor and signed the contract to produce these books. She had already graduated and been accepted to Harvard, but her parents felt she was too young, so she took a year off and started at 17. The first book was written when she was a freshman, and the second in sophomore and junior years, and the third when she took a year off from university before law school.
I haven't read them, but my understanding is she felt they were formulaic enough that anyone could write them. At least this is part of the story my husband tells, but his details are often not quite correct. In any event, when I do read them as I'm sure I must, I will report back. ...more
This one was pretty good. It had disturbing violence, but wasn't as disturbingly violent as others. It was a prequel and tells how Jack left the Army,This one was pretty good. It had disturbing violence, but wasn't as disturbingly violent as others. It was a prequel and tells how Jack left the Army, so it was interesting from that perspective. He kept emphasizing how it was 1997, but some things seemed a little older than 1997, and probably in rural Mississippi in a poverty stricken area, it makes sense. But VHS players, yeah, people still had those then. DVDs were limited in 1998 and I feel like they didn't take over VHS until the early 2000's. There was the usual negative depiction of fat people, and Jack kills people without the benefit of due process and beats on some too. He doesn't get beat up or hurt in this one, and there was end left hanging. But it was entertaining enough as a political type of thriller....more
I recently came across this book in the used book store and it was in great condition. I thought it would be an interesting if disturbing read, so I bI recently came across this book in the used book store and it was in great condition. I thought it would be an interesting if disturbing read, so I bought it to read on a camping weekend. I honestly don't know much of what happened in Japan around the time of these events. Most of what I've read about Japan in WWII was told from a Chinese or American perspective about Japan's actions, and I didn't actually know much about Japan from a perspective of the Japanese.
Of course, this book was written by an American journalist (who was born to missionaries in China and lived his first ten years there), so there are still limits. I don't really know enough about his voice or his agenda to put it aside, but I felt like he did a good job just reporting the different recollections that people had shared with him. He told the story of several experiences, 2 doctors, a mother of young children, a single woman who worked at a tin factory, a German Jesuit missionary. The description of the day of the attack, and what people were doing was very interesting. It made me want to read more of general life in Japan during WWII, particularly about the B-29 bombings in Tokyo, which were referenced here.
The stories of these survivors doesn't really give the reader a sense of the devastation closer to the epicenter of the attack, but that seems like what a reader would have mostly heard about in reference to nuclear weapons, so this was eye opening for the discussion of things farther away. The author mentioned how far in meters the different people were, and they were far enough away not to be killed in the initial flash, but close enough to die in many other ways. There were numerous stories of many people dying in collapsed buildings and then suffocating or burning to death, dying from radiation sickness, flying glass and debris, infection and flash burns.
The stories intertwine and then go on at length in one direction before coming back to pick up the thread. At that point it feels like there were just big gaps in time that I wish could have been a little more fleshed out. And even though I read it in a short time period, I did find myself going back to reacquaint myself with the initial stories of some of the doctors.
Some things I thought were interesting was the discussion about the type of bomb it must have been, with it taking awhile for people to learn what it was. Some people felt anger that the Americans would have chosen to use these bombs, some felt that it was just the cost of war and it isn't the weapons we should be thinking about, but the causes of war.
There were some interesting points brought up that couldn't really be fleshed out completely, but made me want to further explore the topic. For example, there were descriptions of people asking for help in saving people, but that not being really possible, but then people going out of their way to bury the dead in an honorable way at some risk to themselves, because the way the dead were honored seemed to be of paramount importance. The idea of the hibakusha (explosion affected persons) which was the term used for those made sick by the bombs, but not killed, and the discrimination they faced, and then the hibakusha becoming more vocal politically, but it being the less affected who garnered the most attention.
The idea that it was shameful to be from a city that represented the failure of the Japanese to prevail, and then the fact that even with these bombings, there were citizens who were upset that the Emperor had surrendered, as they thought that nothing but victory was possible. I presented really heartbreaking material, but didn't leave you with the sense that there was anything to be done for it. Although when they mention Nagasaki, it really was sad to try and comprehend in the wake of the horrors of this story....more
I love this series, and I feel like this author really knows how to set up a good story arc within her series. I enjoyed the Vampire Academy books, anI love this series, and I feel like this author really knows how to set up a good story arc within her series. I enjoyed the Vampire Academy books, and while there were things I wish she had done differently, I love that she is writing on some of the tried and true literary themes in a fun & compelling way...because life is too depressing for real, and I want people to be heroic and fall madly in love and be kind and smart and beautiful, and I want to read about redemption and sacrifice.
This particular story was interesting, but also bleak and almost exhausting by the end because of the non-stop action and magic use. And it ends so abruptly I was hoping there would be a little blurb or something...but it was just the beginning of the first Vampire Academy book trying to tie in with the movie that came out in 2013....more