on 12 December 2014
Sullivan's Pulphead is extremely compelling, on music. cave-paintings, American eccentrics, anything he has cared to write about, whether you were interested in his subject beforehand or not.
Maybe this is even more interesting: such an intense personal record of American racing, although, heartlessly, I can always give or take the memoir aspect. Your parents, why I should I care?
When he's in Kentucky and going to races the book is at its best, and all he has to say about the horse and its history is a great introduction to the subject, with moving literary touches about its sufferings as a warhorse, and its veneration as a hobbyhorse.
Certainly young writers should emulate great ones, but I'm not sure Sebald has done so many young Americans many favours. We could lose the blotchy photos in all their books, they bring nothing, in Sebald they serve as poetic symbols. But Sullivan has really learnt from Sebald's discursive melancholy, and his writing has its own original beauty and clarity.
on 30 January 2015
First of all, I'm a massive horse racing fan and therefore the theme of the book is interesting for me. Surprisingly though, the strongest part of the book is the authors personal story, the thoughts on his father, their relationship, and the sad ending of it. It is emotional and really made me feel it. There are interesting parts about the history of the horse as well as breeding and racing itself. When he talks about the evolving pedigree lines, about the Triple Crown, bringing in his own experience from the Derby.
However, I can only give 3* after all because as captivating the book was in parts, so though it was to stick with it in other parts. There is a clear lack of focus and direction. This switching back and forth, memoirs, history, quotes... there is too much content cramped into this book unfortunately and there were a point where I was seriously considering to discontinue reading it. There were exciting parts, and there were plain boring, pointless parts. Sometimes less is more.