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Lord of Misrule

by Jaimy Gordon

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6644826,989 (3.46)158
In the early 1970s, trainer Tommy Hansel attempts a horse racing scam at a small, backwoods track in West Virginia, but nothing goes according to his plan when the horses refuse to cooperate and nearly everyone at the track seems to know his scheme.
  1. 10
    Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: These books are very different, but both are sympathetic portrayals of horse racing, horses, and the people of the racetrack.
  2. 00
    The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: As an equestrian, I am drawn to books about horses. I eagerly read "Lord Of Misrule," and while the track and horse racing passages and the characters were accurate and very well written, I found the plot to be somewhat melodramatic. In contrast is "The Hearts of Horses" by Molly Gloss. Well drawn characters and accurately depicted equestrian passages, as well as a solid plot and subtle symbolism. This one works on every level.… (more)
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» See also 158 mentions

English (47)  Piratical (1)  All languages (48)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
midwestern racetrack; horses; wonderful finction; Kindle; read 2009
  18cran | Nov 7, 2021 |
Often I read the reviews of a novel by others to help me understand what I think of novel. Not so much to put words in my mouth but rather to help me clarify my thoughts. It didn't really work in this case. I am still struggling to understand why I did not like this more. The slang used throughout the novel was definitely challenging, but I often like that type of challenge and didn't find it otherwise in this case. It also helped create a sense of authenticity about the world around the racetrack. The characters were quirky, which made them interesting, but I think that was part of the problem: they were so quirky they felt like caricatures of the real thing. I do know that I had no real feeling for any of the characters, except Medicine Ed, neither attraction or repulsion. The world of the racetrack felt real enough, in all of its slime and ugliness, and yet uninteresting. I credit the author with creating something unique, it just was not something in which I found much enjoyment. ( )
  afkendrick | Oct 24, 2020 |
I could not get into this book. I finished it because it had two things going for it; the audio book reader was excellent, and the writing was decent.

I did not develop any kind of relationship with any of the characters or horses, and felt lost in the storyline most of the time. Was there a point to this story, or was it just a slice of life story that wanted to be more? Basic storyline is about a bunch of two-bit, washed up horse trainers, jockeys, owners, groomsmen and horses at a small time race track in West Virginia in the 1970’s. It has all of the makings for a story I would like, but there were too many characters and none of them seemed real enough to care about. I finished the book thinking, “I just don’t get it.”

I doubt I will remember anything about this book next week.
( )
  tshrope | Jan 13, 2020 |
The lack of quotations for dialogue and a narrator that jumps between third person and second, usually in the local dialect but not always, created the perfect atmosphere for this heated story. It took me a few pages to get into it, but then it hooked me. Great cast of diverse characters for such a tiny, seedy world where everyone seems touched by Medicine Ed's 'goofer powder'. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
3.5-4 stars. A very solid book. I disagree with other reviews that say it was difficult to follow. Gordon does a fine job shifting perspective and the lack of quotation marks around the dialogue doesn't distract because the characters all speak with unique voices.

( )
  AaronJacobs | Oct 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
The narrative voice constantly shifts, the language challenges, the action is minimal and meanders. It’s not an easy read, but Gordon’s writing will grab and pull you in.
 
Horse racing has rarely inspired serious fiction. Novels about the sport are usually formulaic (e.g., Dick Francis mysteries) or filled with cliches (e.g., the triumph of an underdog). So it was a shock when "Lord of Misrule," a new novel set at a bottom-level West Virginia racetrack in the early 1970s, was named one of the five finalists for the National Book Award for fiction, a prize that has been won by literary giants such as William Faulkner, John Updike and Saul Bellow.

There are no triumph-of-the-underdog moments in author Jaimy Gordon's book. Her mythical Indian Mound Downs is populated by infirm, battle-scarred old horses and the owners, grooms and trainers who try to eke out a living with them. Some of the characters are noble, in their way, some deranged, some capable of murder and rape, but few of them harbor dreams much grander than winning a cheap race, collecting a small purse and perhaps cashing a bet.
 
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Epigraph
Without claiming races there would be no racing at all. Owners would avoid the hazards of fair competition. Instead, they would enter their better animals in races against the sixth- and twelfth-raters that occupy most stalls at most tracks...This would leave little or no purse money for the owners of cheap horses. The game would perish.
The claiming race changes all that. When he enters his animal in a race for $5,000 claiming horses, the owner literally puts it up for sale at that price. Any other owner can file a claim before the race and lead the beast away after the running. The original owner collects the horse's share of the purse, if it earned any, but he loses the horse at a fair price.
That is, he loses the horse at a fair price if it is a $5,000 horse. If it were a $10,000 horse, in a race for cheaper ones, the owner would get the purse and collect a large bet at odds of perhaps 1 to 10, but the horse would be bought by another barn at less than its true value.
Dedication
This book is for Margie Gordon, for Bubbles Riley, still beating that devil, and, of course, for Hilry.
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Inside the back gate of Indian Mound Downs, a hot-walking machine creaked round and round.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In the early 1970s, trainer Tommy Hansel attempts a horse racing scam at a small, backwoods track in West Virginia, but nothing goes according to his plan when the horses refuse to cooperate and nearly everyone at the track seems to know his scheme.

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McPherson & Company

An edition of this book was published by McPherson & Company.

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Recorded Books

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