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Lord of Misrule (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – March 8, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is about one year in the life of typical small-time trainers and backstretch workers. The comparison here with Damon Runyon's fiction is hard to avoid. Jaimy Gordon's characters have names like Tommy Hansel and his girlfriend, Maggie Koderer; the gypsy Deucey Gifford; the veteran black groom, Medicine Ed; Kiddstuff the blacksmith; Suitcase Smithers the stall superintendent; Two-Tie the grifter racetrack tout; and the leading trainer, Joe Dale Bigg. Their horses carry names such as Pelter, Little Spinoza, The Mahdi, Railroad Joe, Mr. Boll Weevil, and of course Lord Of Misrule.
Archetypes or stereotypes, take your pick. Either way, much of this novel rings true with this reader, who began working on the backstretch at age twelve, selling newspapers, and who, as an adult, owned and raced his own horses for many years, sometimes at such minor tracks as in the novel, including Beulah Park and River Downs.
Parts of the book seem like the familiar lyrics an old song heard once again, containing both high comedy and deep insight.Read more ›
There are things that I love about this book. The ending of the first chapter hooked me. Granted, there are only five chapters in Lord of Misrule, so there were plenty of pages of pondering whether or not I could do this, but I was determined.
The premise is this: Indian Mound Downs is a backwoods racetrack near Wheeling. It is the 1970s, a time period that does well to emphasize just how downtrodden this track is when the likes of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Alydar, and Ruffian were running around in what is arguably American racing's last great decade. Tommy Hansel and Maggie appear at the track with a group of claimers, hoping to get in quick and cash out faster. Their plans are not exactly going to work out, mainly because Maggie is horse crazy (she's one of those characters, complete with the lack of hairbrush ownership) and the fact that Tommy is simply going crazy. At the track already is a group of various characters, all just barely managing to hack out a living with horses that are old and broke down and keep running because their options are that limited. Gordon does a phenomenal job with the horses in all ways, which was one of the highlights of the book. For me, however, she really sold me on aging groom Medicine Ed and his goofer dust, used only when absolutely necessary since it tends to even the scales in some way.Read more ›
Gordon sets her story in 1970, following the opening of great freedoms by the civil rights movement and, particularly, the feminist movement. Maggie is a cute Jewish girl enjoying her uninhibited life with her new boyfriend Tommy who takes her into the lowlife world of small time horse racing controlled by two-bit hoods. She confuses her choices of uninhibited freedom to mean that she controls her life. And she becomes upset with Tommy, after helping him care for the horses after he makes one bumbling decision after another: "I just can't take my whole brains and talent and invest them in someone else's work and (clean up his mistakes) and keep my mouth shut. How do you stand it?" She is talking to a seventy-year-old black, disabled trainer who is struggling to survive, having no savings and no way to support himself, except to continue working until he dies. "That's what working folks do. I ain't have too much choice in the matter." Medicine Ed just wants enough money to be able to live out his dying days in a trailer with a roof over his head and a clean bed, when he empathizes with one of Tommy's horses, "The horse is looking at a miserable death.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is a little hard to get into. After 100 pages I started over with a sheet of ruled paper & pen for writing down the characters names and a few identifying words. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Cereus
The characters at first came across as racetrack stereotypes -- the naive girl; the wise, superstitious black groom -- and I had trouble keeping the different horses straight. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Amy Merrick
The slow build to Lord of Misrule fills the novel with a sense of dread and anticipation. Especially, for the appearance of the titular character.Published 8 months ago by Sleepypants
A very well-written book. I was not convinced by the characters, but they were interesting. Her take on female sexuality was a bit disturbing, but thought provoking.Published 13 months ago by LZSOB
Sorry Jaimy. I know you won the award and all. But the accents were so heavy I couldn't follow. Are they real?Published 17 months ago by Margaret Broersma
For me the language was difficult and not what I'm used to. I am a horse trainer and I didn't feel it was worth the read but maybe a person who is not there everyday might find it... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Nancy A. Rubin
It is hard to imagine a better novel than LORD OF MISRULE. Not only is it exciting and well written, readers learn much about horse racing at its lowest level. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Phyllis J. Moore
Less about horses and horseracing than about the unfortunates who live on the fringes of a broken down small time racetrack. Many people will find this atmospheric and interesting. Read morePublished on December 23, 2013 by M. Swenson
I was blown away by Gordon's facility to pack into so few words such poignant and exquisite detail. I am (or was) ignorant of race tracks except by reputation, but this low-life... Read morePublished on September 7, 2013 by Susan B. Iwanisziw