Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, All Henrico Reads 2012

One of the best things we do in Henrico County is our annual event, All Henrico Reads. This large event is a partnership between the Public Library, the Friends of the Library and the Henrico County Public Schools. I was thrilled to attend my third this week to listen to Garth Stein discuss our AHR title for 2012, his book The Art of Racing in the Rain.

What was great about Stein was that he really focused on the book, he read three passages from it and discussed the character creation and all the struggles he had to get it published.
Since with such a large crowd (easily around 900) it is really hard to answer questions from the audience, so he actually saved us the trouble and answered what he considered some of the top questions he is asked about this book.

1.       Where did the idea come from? No one place, it’s just like making a stew. Inspiration is everywhere and as long as you pay attention it comes together. As far as having the book narrated by a dog, that came from paying attention at an event he was at. He heard Billy Collins read his poem The Revenant, and the narrator is a dog that was just put to sleep. This was the inspiration to have the dog as the narrator for his upcoming book.
2.       How did the dog get the name Enzo? The original name was Juan Pablo, after a famous race car driver, but his wife said no. Later on when she was pregnant he wanted to name the child Enzo, after Enzo Ferrari, but she said no, but suggested that become the dog’s name instead! So Enzo it became.
I really appreciated how funny he was, yet made some great points and really championed the library!
Stein really highlighted the best thing about using a dog as the narrator is that you get to think about life from a very unique and bizarre perspective. For example, "imagine coming home and seeing your husband lying naked on the kitchen floor. You would kick his butt! But you come home to your dog doing the exact same thing? You shower him with love. "

One thing he mentioned that was key to getting the book published was an author dinner he attended in Seattle. There were 35 tables and 35 authors that rotated between all tables during the course of the dinner. Of course the authors got to eat dinner beforehand together. How great would this be if maybe the Virginia Library Association or even the Library of Virginia could get an event like this started in Virginia.
His publicist told him after reviewing the initial draft that there was no way he could ever get this book published. No one would ever be able to sell a book narrated by a dog. So he fired him. It was at this author dinner that he introduced himself as Garth Stein and that he was really frustrated. He had this great book but he couldn’t get it published because it was narrated by a dog. So another author at the table jumped right up and said, contact my publicist, he got my book published and it was narrated by a crow! So he did, and that is how The Art of Racing in the Rain got published. And I for one am glad that it did.

I will leave you with this, one of my favorite points that he made during the evening. "We should treat everyone more like dogs. Think about it. There would be fewer expectations of each other and more unconditional love." Now that is a world I think we would all like to live in!