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Laughing in the Hills Paperback – April 13, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Barich debuted in 1980 with this magnificent meditation on horse-racing, yet the rich, full portrait he paints of the track and its colorful citizenry--human and hoofed--is only prelude to the work's enduring appeal. It is really a finely crafted memoir about loss and longing, renewal and affirmation.

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.

About the Author

Bill Barich is the author of numerous books, among them Big Dreams: Into the Heart of California, and The Sporting Life. He has written extensively for The New Yorker, as well as Playboy and Sports Illustrated. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow in fiction.



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Daily Racing Form (April 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932910875
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932910872
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #971,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm not even finished with this book yet, but I got online to see what kind of response it has received. I'm staggered to see it is not ranked higher and had only a few 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.
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Format: Paperback
This guy is a very honest type of writer who sets aside his ego to get at the truth.
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.
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By A Customer on December 3, 1998
Format: Paperback
This unusual and beautifully written work gets right to the heart of its topics. OK, I happen to love racing and fine horses, appreciate Florentine art and culture, and enjoy fly fishing, but I believe "Laughing in the Hills" would appeal to all who enjoy good writing. I have read this book a few times since first discovering it, and have shared it with friends as well.
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Format: Paperback
This book was listed by Amazon.com as one of the 10 Best Sports Books of the 20th Century. It was also chosen by Sports Illustrated as one of the top 100 sports books of all-time.
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Format: Paperback
After I read Barich's New Yorker essay "At the Fountain," I (A) gave a copy to every one of my friends, and (B) pilgrimaged to read and know the other published work of this amazing author.
'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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book gives a very well written view into the day to day world of horse racing, only from behind the scenes with the common folks and common horses. It is one mans' summer adventure after a family tragedy to live the racing from betting to finding out all the Sport of Kings offered. The thoughts of the author as he went from day to day in this world was educational, calming, and realistic - including non-exciting. If you're looking for action, read "Seabisquit" or other more fast paced books about this area. If you're looking for the deep thoughts about the people, places, and things, you've found a winner. Cash it in!
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Format: Paperback
"Laughing in the Hills" was born out of loss, which Bill Barich illustrates at the inception of his 1978 work, "For me it did not begin with horses. They came later, after a phone call and a simple statement of fact: Your mother has cancer."

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Loved it! Not only does it take place on my home racetrack - he has woven many familiar names into the storyline. Really grabs the look and feel of several aspects of racetrack life - from the jockeys and trainers, to the grooms , betters, track crew and personnel. It catches an era and lifestyle well.
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