National Book Award, Fiction, 2010
At the rock-bottom end of the sport of kings sits the ruthless and often violent world of cheap horse racing, where trainers and jockeys, grooms and hotwalkers, loan sharks and touts are all struggling to take an edge, or prove their luck, or just survive.
Equal parts Nathanael West, Damon Runyon and Eudora Welty, Lord of Misrule follows five characters -- scarred and lonely dreamers in the American grain -- through a year and four races at Indian Mound Downs, downriver from Wheeling, West Virginia. Horseman Tommy Hansel has a scheme to rescue his failing stable: He'll ship four unknown but ready horses to Indian Mound Downs, run them in cheap claiming races at long odds, and then gut out fast before anyone notices. The problem is, at this rundown riverfront half-maile racetrack in the Northern Panhandle, everybody notices -- veteran groom Medicine Ed, Kidstuff the blacksmith, old lady "gyp" Deucey Gifford, stall superintendent Suitcase Smithers, eventually even the ruled-off "racetrack financier" Two-Tie and the ominous leading trainer, Joe Dale Bigg. But no one bothers to factor in Tommy Hansel's go-fer girlfriend, Maggie Koderer. Like the beautiful, used-up, tragic horses she comes to love, Maggie has just enough heart to wire everyone's flagging hopes back to the source of all luck.
©2010 Jaimy Gordon (P)2011 Recorded Books, LLC
Marvelous language, fully developed characters that draw you in instantly. Myra Lucretia Taylor is a masterful reader who has made each character distinctive. A great listen even if you aren't into horses or racing.
I'm a horse lover and was really looking forward to an enjoyable read. I was terribly disappointed to find it very hard going. Not being conversant with racetrack lingo I had a hard time understanding what was going on even when there were explanations because they were made using that same lingo. I gave up then returned to the book several times but have not yet been able to get into it. I feel like a hopelessly lost outsider struggling and failing to comprehend what's going on. Perhaps reading the actual book first will help but at present it seems a waste. I'm looking for entertainment not a study course in which I have to have reference books at hand.
On another note, the reader was a surprise, being female (If left up to me I would have opted for a male reader), but I felt she had a good grasp of the characters and an excellent range of voices and I quickly became comfortable with her.
Muddy descriptions and language need a good, hard edit. So much going on, nothing stands out as authentic or interesting. The language is just plain hard to follow at times. And what, exactly, is Gordon trying to do with those occasional shifts to second-person perspective? A total fail.
Books on horse racing? Not necessarily. But I won't be reading any more of this author.
Yes. The reader is not the problem. It's the condescending dialect that Gordon saddles some of her characters with that gets under the skin.
Over-wrought sex scenes and scenes with second-person narration.
I can usually find something good in just about any book. But this one irritates me.
The dialogue and the voices of the characters was great; and the characters themselves were also fascinating and real in a "Runyonesque" sort of way.
I really liked the general flow of the story.
There were many scenes that worked well, but one does not particularly stand out over the others.
No, but I seldom do.
The narrator (or reader) did an excellent job with this book. She made the characters and the story feel very real.
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