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Lord of Misrule (Vintage Contemporaries)
by Jaimy Gordon
Paperback : 304 pages
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Tommy Hansel has a plan: run four horses, all better than they look on ...
A brilliant novel that captures the dusty, dark, and beautiful world of small-time horse racing, where trainers, jockeys, grooms and grifters vie for what little luck is offered at a run-down West Virginia track .
Tommy Hansel has a plan: run four horses, all better than they look on paper, at long odds at Indian Mound Downs, then grab the purse -- or cash a bet -- and run before anyone’s the wiser. At his side is Maggie Koderer, who finds herself powerfully drawn to the gorgeous, used up animals of the cheap track. She also lands in the cross-hairs of leading trainer Joe Dale Bigg. But as news of Tommy’s plan spreads, from veteran groom Medicine Ed, to loan shark Two-Tie, to Kidstuff the blacksmith, it’s Maggie, not Tommy or the handlers of legendary stakes horse Lord of Misrule, who will find what's valuable in a world where everything has a price.
Editorial ReviewAmazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010: It is nearly impossible not to be drawn into horseracing cliches when describing Jaimy Gordon's novel Lord of Misrule, especially since it came out of the pack as a dark horse (there you go) to win the 2010 National Book Award for fiction the same week it was published. It's a novel of the track, and Gordon embraces racing's lingo and lore and even some of its romance of longshot redemption, though she knows those bets never really come in, at least the way you think they will. Her story is set at a backwater half-mile track in West Virginia in the early '70s, the sort of place where people wash up or get stuck or, if they're particularly cruel, carve out a provincial fiefdom. The horses there are washed up too but still somehow glorious, and they're as vividly and individually defined as the people who build their lives around them. Between horse and handler there's a sort of cross-species alchemy that, along with Gordon's gorgeous language and wise storytelling, provides the central beauty of her mud-caked but mythic tale, which Maggie, one of her most compelling characters, comes the closest to describing: "On the last little spit of being human, staring through rags of fog into the not human, where you weren't supposed to be able to see let alone cross, she could make a kind of home." --Tom Nissley
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