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Laughing in the Hills Paperback – April 13, 2007
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Its opening is irresistible: "For me it did not begin with the horses. They came later, after a phone call and a simple statement of fact: Your mother has cancer." Barich copes with that horrible reality as best he can, losing his pain in the drama of the track, and finding himself in a pilgrimage through Renaissance literature and the memories of an earlier part of his life lived in Florence, Italy. If the combination seems a longshot at best, remember: the greater the odds, the better the pay-off, and Laughing in the Hills pays off staggeringly. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
This is one of those books where every page brings insights so painful, or so beautiful, I shake my head in amazement. I'm reading it slowly, lovingly, and I'll tell all my friends about it.
I'm a writer, and have written a novel about horse racing. I've explored this same territory. I almost wish I'd written this book. It is filled with truth and sadness and many, many fine portraits of the people that hang around on the backside of the track.
The book tells the story of the author's attempt to make a go of professional handicapping, but he spends a lot of time on the backstretch getting to know the people and the horses.
There is the backstretch as your trainer describes it to you ("well-oiled machine operating at peak efficiency"), and the backstretch as Barich paints it (loosely collected ragtag assortment of people and horses trying to stay afloat). Even though luck is hard to come by for many of the characters in the book, they have an earnest dignity as Bill Barich depicts them, and love and respect for the animals is predominant.
If you like racing you will like this book; if you don't like racing or are indifferent to it, you will probably like the book anyway.
'Laughing in the Hills' could have been about how beans are canned, and it would still be a classic. This book is in a class with the best of Constantine, Auster, and Hardy - and they should consider THEMselves lucky to be compared with Barich.
Lost and full of reprieve, Barich turns to the unlikeliest of cathedrals for inspiration in his time of mourning: the racetrack. The connection as to why or what made him turn to the track is underdeveloped, but this matters little. What does matter is Barich's ability to unveil with an adept and philosophical eye the intricacies and pulse of life at the track.
The track for Barich becomes an insular world where he turns "to get past the sadness." It provides a framework, a construction, within which he can repair the tatters of his grief-filled life, temporarily shattered by the loss and death of his mother. The book arrives at a mystical solution to that pain in that it is not until Barich abandons constructions and narratives all together that his own enlightenment becomes possible.
Barich is the consummate Renaissance man, as well versed in the history of thoroughbred horseracing, as philosophy, or the offerings of Florence's Uffizi Gallery. And it is wearing these multiple hats of the artist, philosopher, and sportsman that Barich expresses a personal fear that a moral and cultural decay was upon him and his fellow man in the late `70's. And it was out of this time that Barich feared television would emerge as the preferred medium of entertainment, and in so doing become a murderer of culture, creating a time of "flattened perceptions and a cathodal substratum too insubstantial to support human life.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
seemed light weight compared to the great horse books i have been readingPublished 3 months ago by jeannette mackie
I didn't enjoy this book at all. It just drones on and I found it very boring. I love racing books but not this one.Published on May 8, 2014 by Marta Pilling
Ever gone to a horse race at a second tier track? Kinda like an Indian Casino as opposed to Nevada style. Where do losers go to win? Read some of Bukowski's take on racetracks. Read morePublished on February 16, 2014 by Amazon Customer
This book came highly recommended and did not disappoint.
I walked away learning a lot and surprisingly it turns out I mirror the author's betting approach; numbers, and... Read more
I love the race track. Some very interesting points were made but on the whole I found it just so-so.Published on October 29, 2012 by Michael Rowan
Back in the 1970s, journalist Bill Barich's mother died after a long, terrible battle with cancer. Barich sought solace by betting at his local racetrack - Golden Gate Fields - in... Read morePublished on June 19, 2011 by stoic
WHAT a wonderful world Barich portrays in this book. HOW we all took it for granted! Although it revolves around the author's momentary fervor (handicap fever! Read morePublished on December 5, 2010 by Ellzeena
This book although a little dated is very informative about the backside of racing. The characters are interestings and artfuly described. Read morePublished on February 6, 2009 by Robert R. Mccalla