That Generic Style
I've just finished "the art of racing in the rain" by Garth Stein.
In a word don't bother. On a scale of 1-10 about a 2.
The book's been getting a lot of hype. It must be the paltry plot because it sure isn't anything to do with the writing.
There's so much that I found just right of junk I almost don't know where to begin. First off, it's what I term a generic style of writing. No chances, no high points, no risk, just plodding plot, one nearly random event after another. It's like a virus where authors pretend they can write and that their audience is stupid. Then they tell us everything and tell us again to make sure we get it, then for good luck they tell us one more time.
Stein uses a dog to narrate his tale but the dog keeps switching between first person and third person omniscient. It watches what people do after they leave a room for example. It knows things that it could not possibly know. Stein jumps through hoops to get the dog to tell us about the court case which he wasn't ever allowed to see. Next Stein starts off chapters with racing details that he tries to make significant as analogy. But Stein is too enamored with catchphrases to make it work. He has a bunch that he tosses out over and over as though seeing them again adds depth to the work. Instead it comes off as Stephen King catchphrases, "They all float" for example without the resonance that King seems to nail down in his lightweight manner. Can we please ban the phrase "arms akimbo"? Following his use of cliches, he gets himself into a bit of a humorous position, "'Sir!' the cop barked." Heheh I doubt very much Stein caught this one.
Plot in a nutshell, Racer with dog, wife dies, accused falsely of rape, grandparents try to take daughter, from bad to worse until that oh so magical and predictable end where everything works out and we can give the end of sitcom AWWWW.
There is no depth to this writing. There are no risks. It seems he's attempting to emulate Dave Eggars, and then Coetzee and then Stephen King. He's trying so hard but he's an absolutely average writer in my opinion. So try his best he really needs to learn rigor and revision and he needs more time as a writer to find his voice, which really does not come through at all here. There was nothing in this book that took my breath away, and out of about 59 chapters only three I think were anything beyond generic and average, parts of the rant about monkeys taking thumbs from dogs, (very much seeming to be Gabe Hudson in tone) and parts of the crow chapter until it got third grade in style were mildly interesting.
Finally I hate books with errors like this. The dog can smell a day's worth of events but later can't tell chicken nuggets are rancid until basically stuffing one into his nose. He never smells crotches or butts, something all dogs do. The dog says he's colorblind but then later tells us about a navy blue dress and a linen colored carpet. A tv show title is wrong. The main guy feeds his daughter hot dogs and chicken nuggets (yes they keep reappearing as though Stein can't imagine any other food) but then worries her grandparents may not be buying organic.
I came away feeling run over and ripped off. Reading this book was like watching the entire Indy 500 run under caution. There was a race...in a way.