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Horseracing in America: a novel by [Sid Gustafson]

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Horseracing in America: a novel Kindle Edition


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Length: 272 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Prairie Mary
 
 

 
This book was not at all what I expected, though it is exactly what the title, "Horse Racing in America," says. It is about the scandalous treatment -- MIS-treatment -- of race horses who are routinely destroyed because of running drugged on broken legs.  Oddly, there is no single horse who is the focus -- rather, the animal we follow and fear for is a dog.  Not just any dog, but a rez dog. 

In Sid's 4th novel, the reader is led through horse anatomy, particularly legs, and the drugs used on horses, not so different from the drugs we have all become familiar with these days because of human addiction. Encagements of horses' heads with bits and tie-downs elaborated to control the horse have the ironic effect of making breathing near-impossible, especially when running.  The cruelty and attempt to control made me think of a medieval woman who spoke too much, even as they led her to be martyred by being burned alive. When she continued to shout to the crowd, her captors screwed her tongue to the top of her mouth.  These days Euros don't use such methods, which have remained part of the American obsession with control. 
 
Reading this book during current political developments  means it echoes with bribery, mafia schemes, semi-legality, evasion of regulation, perversion of science, and pretensions of grandeur.  But that's not what shines through all this machinery.  I'm not sure that even Sid realizes what he has written, as much in his subconscious as his intentions.  It's again as extraordinary as "Moby Dick," the detail and passion of obsession so strong as to be seen as madness.  In this version Sid names it "Dominion."
 
"Dominion came to haunt me, much as it had come to haunt Vallerone.  I despise the liberty man has taken with dominion over animals.  His animals. Ha. Folk desire dominion over goodness, and absurdly, dominion over all living things."  It's in the Bible.  But in the novel it is tied to veterinarians specifically through Herriot's use of a Bible quote for an epigraph of a book later than "All Things Bright and Beautiful", a book called "Every Living Thing"
 
"Be fruitful and multiply,
and replenish the earth and subdue it:
and have dominion over the fish of the sea
and over the fowl of the air, 
and over every living thing
that moveth upon the earth."
(Genesis 1:28, repeated again and again)
 
 
Much of the plot plunges briskly through the chapters by means of repartee.  Abandonment of quotation marks works here without confusion, easily visualized, which suggests a translation to a movie, except that such a move would lose the lyric passages about place, which are crucial to the sense and senses of the story. Memories of the Montana east slope stand in contrast with the shore of the New York Finger Lakes where Sicilians run casinos that make living animals into electronic signifiers, bookkeeping wealth too easily manipulated.
 
Locating Vallerone's incarceration in a Veteran's Hospital means that men are as much victims of national dominions as are women, as much destroyed by territorial industrial revolution war as animals are by distorted competition.  But there's little lecturing on the obvious.  Just the overwhelming inner drive to understand what to do, to obey the compelling need to make the maimed whole again or at least give them dignity.
 
Somewhere I once read an anthropological report on a Blackfeet woman's specialty as a "horse doctor."  When the men came back from war or hunting, exhausted and possibly wounded themselves, the women took the horses to water and clean and a particularly skilled woman checked each one for wounds she would pack with healing herbs.  I think Sid read it, too, but I don't have a reference for it.  

Don't underestimate this book, but don't forget that Sid provides many nonfiction work on the same subject.
prairiemary.blogspot.com/2020/05/horse-racing-in-america-review.html
 

From the Back Cover

"The best novels, however one defines them and judges them, include the knowledge of something we've known little about on the level of expertise that the practitioners have.  Consider "Moby Dick."  In this novel Moby Dick is a monumental rebuilt dam and the special knowledge is about horses and veterinary meds and instruments.  Flesh of several kinds." 
Mary Scriver, aka Prairie Mary, Pondera County Essayist 
"Sid writes with a dedicated sense of place and change. Swift Dam is native lore from the poetic heart of Montana, a water manifesto."  
 Jim Harrison, novelist and poet, author of Legends of the Fall, Dalva, and Dead Man's Float    
"Sid Gustafson writeslike the language is a race horse and he is the rider, ready to go as far andfast as they both can go. He is in love with words, especially as they attach to the weather, terrain and inhabitants of  Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, one of the most unforgiving and beautiful regions on the planet. He knows what he's talking about. Listen to him."
 
Deidre McNamer, author of Rima in the Weeds and MyRussian

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