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The Industry Leaders had made it their personal mission to bring horse racing to the attention of the general public, with the NFL as their model and television as their medium of choice, which was fine with Farley, though his own view was that horse racing out at the track, newspaper reading, still photography, placing bets in person, and writing thank-you notes by hand were all related activities, and football, ESPN, video, on-line betting, and not writing thank-you notes at all were another set of related activities.A crucial piece of information for Smiley fans is that, among her many novels, Horse Heaven most resembles Moo. (And there's even a pig!) In fact, with these two books it appears that this versatile author has finally found a home in which to unpack her impressive gifts: that is, the sprawling, intricately plotted satirical novel. Her target in this case is not academia but horse racing--less commonly satirized but, here at least, just as fruitfully so. Wickedly knowing, dryly comic, the result is as much fun to read as it must have been to write.
None of which means that Horse Heaven is a casual read. For starters, one practically needs a racing form to keep track of its characters, particularly when their stories begin to overlap and converge in increasingly unlikely and pleasing ways. Perhaps it says something about the novel that the easiest figures to follow are the horses themselves: loutish Epic Steam, the "monster" colt; the winsome filly Residual; supernaturally focused Limitless; and trembling little Froney's Sis. And that's not to forget Horse Heaven's single most prepossessing character, Justa Bob--a little swaybacked, a little ewe-necked, but possessed of a fine sense of humor and an abiding disdain for winning races by anything but a nose.
Then there are the humans, including but not limited to socialite Rosalind Maybrick, her husband Al (who manufactures "giant heavy metal objects" in "distant impoverished nationlike locations"), a Zen trainer, a crooked trainer, a rapper named Ho Ho Ice Chill, an animal psychic, and a futurist scholar, as well as attendant jockeys, grooms, and hangers-on. (Not to mention poor, ironically named Joy, a few years out of Moo U and still having problems relating.) It's a little frustrating to watch this cast come and go and fight for Smiley's attention; you glimpse them so vividly, and then they disappear for another hundred pages, and it breaks your heart.
But there are certainly worse problems a novel could have than characters to whom you grow overattached. A plot this convoluted would be one, if only it weren't so hard to stop reading. There are elements of magic realism, astounding coincidences, unabashed anthropomorphism. (At one point--while Justa Bob throws himself against his stall in sorrow at leaving his owner's tiny, wordless mother behind--this reviewer cried, "Shameless!" even as she began to tear up.) Improbably, it all works. Horse Heaven is a great, joyous, big-hearted entertainment, a stakes winner by any measure, and for both horse lovers and fans of Smiley's dry, character-based wit, a cause for celebration on par with winning the Triple Crown. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves horses.
Now take into consideration that I am not only a very experienced horseperson (racing and hunter/jumper) but I have a degree in English Literature.
And the style of the book, the way the many characters come & go, well, that is a lot the way racing is, too.
This is a great book for everyone, but especially for anyone who follows horse racing. I first read it back to back with Seabiscuit and it was the perfect sequel. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Candace Clemens
I'm horse crazy. Always have been, always will be. It's rare that a book about horses doesn't suck me in and make me read non stop until the end. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Ashley P.
I little too long, but for a horse owner very accurate. Love the perspective from the horses and what they are thinking.Published 3 months ago by Kate
excellent! Make sure that you keep a copy of this. It is re-read material.Published 3 months ago by PJ
An all-time favorite. Them horses are as interesting and memorable as the human characters. I have read this at least 4 times, and bought this for my sister. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Little old Lady
Terrific book! I now know more about horses that I didn't even know I didn't know. I love Ms. Smiley's style of writing.... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Pam Achter
This is a long but great read! I read the book and then got the book on tape version for my husband...we listened on the way to horse shows! Read morePublished 4 months ago by romancelover
One of my favorite books ever. Jane Smiley is so knowing about people and it turns out she is just as knowing about horses, my favorite animals.Published 5 months ago by Barbara
This is a wonderful book, as are alj Jane Smiley's books .I read it quite a while ago, but it is so long -- and so heavy -- I found myself skipping around. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Lewis Samuels