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The Sport of Kings: A Novel by C. E. Morgan
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The Sport of Kings: A Novel (2016)

by C. E. Morgan

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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I like quiet, subtle character studies as much as the next reader, but sometimes it's nice to just dig into a big fat epic doorstopper with lots of stuff happening. And that's what The Sport of Kings has to offer. Don't get me wrong -- the writing is also great, and Morgan also has a lot to say about race and family and history, but there's a lot of pleasure in just watching the plot unwind. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
This is a surprising book, it made a few unexpected side steps and had a weird ending. Some of the writing on landscape is great, I could picture the land very well, and the excitement of the horse racing was infectious. Other bits dragged and felt like they could use some editing. When Allmon enters the story you get a chapter with an entirely different feel than what has gone before. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Mar 5, 2018 |
This book is offensive. I can only hope the reader will read past his or her objections. It is offensive to blacks, to monied whites, to animal rights activists, to horse-racing enthusiasts, to atheists, to Christians, to hillbillies and a combination of any or all of the above. I loved every minute of it. This book gets in your face and into your brain. Morgan takes Homeric and idyllic pastoral scenes to an entirely new level in the modern novel. The writing is lush, but accurate to every detail. I heard echoes of Milton and Shakespeare in the cadence of the language. The Southern Gothic has been resurrected, only Faulkner has moved to Kentucky, where the idea of the Old South has been both manufactured and maintained by families who imagine themselves as monied, but whose lives are but a gamble. It's a Williams play, had he written a saga. Descriptions of mountains are straight from Robert Penn Warren, Wendell Berry, Kingsolver. The story of slaves an amplified Harriet Beecher Stowe. The sense of generations from Lee Smith. This is one of the richest novels I've read in a long time, whose characters filled my dreams. The stream of conscious/unconscious evolution, Darwinian, point toward the paradox of order in disorder. I wonder if readers who are not "from there" will get it. I've been there, I know the roads and towns. I've seen the horse farms and tracks. I've eaten Derby pie and drunk mint juleps. I sincerely hope this book enters the canon of modern American literature. The author seems to me, much like the filly Hellsmouth, finely honed as a champion. ( )
  MsKathleen | Jan 29, 2018 |
Less than the sum of its parts. Or possibly more? It starts as yet another Great American Novel about a Great American Family, then takes a delightfully unexpected turn. However, once the novelty wore off, I couldn’t help feeling that, as with the Underground Railroad, the characters were just very polished cover versions of very, very familiar songs. But polished they were, and but for a couple of odd plot points I really did enjoy this. Not groundbreaking, but exciting to read all the same. ( )
  alexrichman | Jan 9, 2018 |
With The Sport of Kings, there is little doubt that C.E Morgan intends her version of the "Great American Novel". Because there is much more going on here than the overarching theme of breeding horses to future greatness. In fact, this is much more about the breeding of people and the impact of nature vs nurture.

There are 3 main characters: Henry Forge grows up under the iron tutelage of his father, John Henry, a man much concerned with propriety, the family name and family reputation and with very definitive views on race who is very hostile to racing. Never the less, on John Henry's death, he turns the family property into a very successful racing stables. His daughter, Henrietta, grows up being force fed a diet of horses, breeding and the benefits of in breeding to unfortunate consequences. Allmon Shaugnessy, a descendant of Forge family slaves (although he does not know this) grows up in deprived quarters of Cincinnatti, before a spell in prison leads him to be trained as an expert groom who comes to work with Henrietta.

With these characters Ms Morgan clearly hopes to paint on a broad canvas something profound and meaningful about the history of the South and the characters of the South. She is only partially successful in this, for a couple of reasons. Firstly one of her main characters, Henrietta, is a cypher, with no discernible motivations or personality other than extreme and random promiscuity. And yes, one of the reasons for this is revealed towards the end of the book, but in general she is simply a token pulled between her father and Allmon Shaughnessy. Secondly, if you are going to have a highly promiscuous character , you need to write about sex a bit better than Ms Morgan does. Some of the scenes here should win bad sex writing competitions in perpetuity. Thirdly, the fact is that the best section of the book has nothing to do with horses and horse breeding but with Allmon's upbringing in Cincinatti. This is an engaging and powerful narrative, and even if cliche ridden (black youth with essentially good intentions, is forced by the circumstances of his mother's ill health to choose between college or the gang) shows a lot more grimy reality than most other sections of the book. But when the book contrives to move Allmon to the Kentucky stables, his character too seems to fade away and he becomes little more than a symbol

So a lot to enjoy here; few would not cheer lustily at the triumphs of the filly Hellsmouth and Allmon's grandfather, The Reverend, is a fabulous character. If anyone deserves a spinoff, its The Reverend. But there are a few problems too. Plenty of ambition, but some basic characterisation failures in my opinion, and all trying a bit too hard ( )
  Opinionated | Dec 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Given this state of political affairs, it seems strange that conservative characters are seldom given serious treatment in contemporary American literary fiction. Even less often is this ideology depicted through its true believers and enforcers: the wealthy and the upper-middle class.

*

One rare exception is C.E. Morgan’s prizewinning 2016 novel The Sport of Kings, in which Henry Forge—the conservative, racist heir to a large slaveholding fortune—is a main protagonist.
added by elenchus | editlithub.com, Colette Shade (Apr 28, 2018)
 
This novel is about horse racing the way Moby-Dick is about a whale; it has a similarly expansive scope, spiritual seriousness and density of grand themes. Shortlisted for the Pulitzer and now the Baileys prize, Morgan’s epic work builds to a climactic series of dramatic race scenes featuring a star filly named Hellsmouth. Along the way, Morgan wrestles with subjects including the history of Kentucky, slavery and its legacies, the iniquities of American healthcare, Darwinism, geology and relations between the sexes. In the maximalist stakes, Morgan’s novel is a muscular, confident entry....As the story heats up, so does Morgan’s dense and complex language
 
No dead horse has been more thoroughly flogged than the Great American Novel, yet C E Morgan, undeterred, has coaxed the poor animal into unexpected resurrection, leading it up onto its shaking legs and into a full-blooded gallop. The Sport of Kings is a novel ostensibly about horse racing, but it is competing for much higher stakes. Morgan has dared to write the kind of book that was presumed long extinct: a high literary epic of America.....Beneath the ostentatious prose, Morgan is a good old-fashioned storyteller, knowing what to withhold and what to reveal.
 
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As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.

—CHARLES DARWIN, On the Origin of Species”
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This book is dedicated to the reader.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374281084, Hardcover)

Hellsmouth, a willful thoroughbred filly with the blood of Triple Crown winners flowing through her veins, has the legacy of the Forges riding on her. One of the oldest and proudest families in Kentucky, the Forge family is as mythic as the history of the South itself. Descended from one of the first settlers to brave the Gap, Henry Forge, through an act of naked ambition, is attempting to blaze a new path, breeding horses on the family's crop farm. His daughter, Henrietta, becomes his partner in the endeavor, although she has desires of her own. Their conflict escalates when Allmon Shaughnessy, a black man fresh from prison, comes to work in the stables, and the ugliness of the farm's past and the exigencies of appetite become evident. Together, the three stubbornly try to create a new future through sheer will--one that isn't written in their very fabric--while they mold Hellsmouth into a champion.

The Sport of Kings has the grace of a parable and the force of an epic. A majestic story of speed and hunger, racism and justice, this novel is an astonishment from start to finish. A vital new voice, C. E. Morgan has crafted an American myth, a contemporary portrait of the scars of the past that run through a family, and of our desperate need to escape our history, to subsume it with pleasure--or to rise above it with glory.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 08 Nov 2015 09:03:53 -0500)

"Hellsmouth, a willful thoroughbred filly with the blood of Triple Crown winners flowing through her veins, has the legacy of the Forges riding on her. One of the oldest and proudest families in Kentucky, the Forge family is as mythic as the history of the South itself. Descended from one of the first settlers to brave the Gap, Henry Forge, through an act of naked ambition, is attempting to blaze a new path, breeding horses on the family's crop farm. His daughter, Henrietta, becomes his partner in the endeavor, although she has desires of her own. Their conflict escalates when Allmon Shaughnessy, a black man fresh from prison, comes to work in the stables, and the ugliness of the farm's past and the exigencies of appetite become evident. Together, the three stubbornly try to create a new future through sheer will--one that isn't written in their very fabric--while they mold Hellsmouth into a champion.The Sport of Kings has the grace of a parable and the force of an epic. A majestic story of speed and hunger, racism and justice, this novel is an astonishment from start to finish. A vital new voice, C. E. Morgan has crafted an American myth, a contemporary portrait of the scars of the past that run through a family, and of our desperate need to escape our history, to subsume it with pleasure--or to rise above it with glory"--"A contemporary portrait of a family subsumed by the scars of slavery"--… (more)

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