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Lord of Misrule Audio CD – 1 Jan 2011

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1456130978
  • ISBN-13: 978-1456130978
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 16.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Contessa67 on 9 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
It took a while to get into, but then I suddenly found myself captivated by the old black groom, the gentlemanly Jewish loan shark, the memorable and wonderful - not anthropomorphized but rather deeply felt and imagined - horses, and the rising sense of something less than tragedy and more than predestined ill luck that twists the fates of all involved.

Gordon sets an atmospheric scene and some wonderful turns of phrase:

"...And then he does go down. The small, glittering, patched-together black devil, Lord of Misrule, rolling, skidding in the dust, scarred black legs flailing. Because the dying Mahdi has backed into him. Bumped him. And Lord of Misrule, only a phantom horse, twisted together in haste in the Devil's workshop out of abortionists' black wire hangers and the patent leather raincoats of pimps and whores, can't possibly move like a living thing, change leads, get out of the way. Down, down he goes and rolls away from the rail--into Little Spinoza, who goes down too."

This is a left-field winner in many ways, from a small press and contending against a bunch of famous heavy-hitters, set as it is on a dingy third-rate race track in the dingy beginning of the seventies, peppered with track jargon, shifting perspective which doesn't always work, and with a kind of intentional (?) opaque hole in the center where one of the protagonists acts as an unknowable agent of change. It is Tommy Hansel, owner of the 4 horses whose year on the Mound we follow, lover of Maggie, brother to a dead twin sister, who is the real Lord of Misrule, though there is a sense throughout the novel that everyone is complicit in their eventual fate, and everyone gets not what they dream of but what they deserve.
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By bobby on 7 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It took me a while to tune in to the various voices in this book, the sence of being taken to a place and culture previously unknown was exciting though, and soon I was engrossed. A very original novel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 77 reviews
209 of 222 people found the following review helpful
Nominated for the National Book Award. 6 Nov. 2010
By Richard L. Pangburn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Of course, LORD OF MISRULE is the name of a horse. It resonates well with anarchy, chaos theory. The splendid dust jacket picture on this novel shows a lone horse and exercise rider coming down the track out of the misty nothingness. How apt for this fine literary horseracing novel, an underdog longshot from a small press but now nominated for the National Book Award.

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. Here from this novel is the typical lament of the veteran racetracker, Medicine Ed, no doubt true now and always, but certainly true back in the time of this novel, set in 1970:

"Seem like every day since time he been thinking what a shame and pity it is how the world is coming down, how the pride of work has disappeared, until they just laugh at him, the boys that come on the racetrack now--how the horses is misused and abused, started out racing too young before they bones is hard, not rested proper and dosed with all kind of shots and pills, and so consequently don't last--how these five and dime horse trainers and they ten-cent owners anymore be tighter than the bark on a beech tree, when it come to anything but rush rush rush them horses back to the track and collect a bet. It ain't no real sportsmen round here no more, if it ever was, or either sportswomen. And John Q. Public wasn't no dumber than he used to was, but also he ain't no smarter."

I liked the opening metaphor of the automated hot-walking machine: "the going-nowhere contraption" you can't get around, comparing it to the lost souls of the backstretch life itself, going round and round, saying that "right down to the sore horses at each point of the silver star, it resembled some woebegone carnival ride, some skeleton of a two-bit ride dreamed up by a dreamer too tired to dream."

Rather than using the actual historic names for horses, the author uses proper names that might resonate with her deeper themes. For example, speaking of thoroughbred bloodlines, rather than writing, say, "this was the blood of Man O War," she writes "this was the blood of Platonic," the words of Plato resonating with her twinning of the male and female protagonists, each in search of its other half to make themselves whole again.

I don't have any major complaints, but I do have quibbles. She gives the power to write races to the stall superintendent rather than to the racing secretary. Well, this is fiction. Part of her racetrack vernacular is historic and part of it is obviously the author's own invention, so much of it well done yet her so often repeated use of "go-fer," "goofer," and "gaffer" grated on this reader after a while like Gomer Pyle's drawn out "gol-ley." At one point she describes the chestnut coat of a particular racehorse as whiskey red, and a few pages later compares it to the color of old fire hydrants. She should have stuck with whiskey.

Gypsy was a common racetrack term back in the days when racetrack meetings were short. The self-described gypsy horsemen I knew in the past were always small-time owner/trainers who traveled from track to track like migrant workers and resided lightly in tack rooms and horse vans. It was only their mobile life which made them gypsies. Most caught in this life were, like Medicine Ed in this novel, always hoping to find a place to settle down, looking for a home.

The narrative drive in the opening ten chapters is nicely paced, but after that it becomes a tad disjointed, too episodic, and the book needed its girth tightened in the middle. The narrative picks up the bit toward the end and finishes well.

Over all, this is a damned fine novel. My picks for the very best ten novels of 2010 include such high quality longshots as Robert Flynn's excellent ECHOES OF GLORY, Clancy Martin's amazing HOW TO SELL: A NOVEL, James Hynes's NEXT, and Paul Harding's TINKERS. I wasn't familiar with those announced as nominated for the National Book Award, but now if LORD OF MISRULE should win it, I won't be too disappointed or too surprised.

If you enjoyed LORD OF MISRULE and are looking for similar works expressing the poetry, comedy, and tragedy of racetrack life, I suggest you read Bill Barich's excellent LAUGHING IN THE HILLS, a fine work of creative non-fiction. Also fine are Carol Flakes' TARNISHED CROWN and Jane Smiley's A YEAR AT THE RACES and her novel, HORSE HEAVEN. And if you want to see a first-hand account of what backstretch life was like during the time of this particular novel, see Billie Young's BITS & PIECES OF THE BACK SIDE.
50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
A Great Racetrack Novel 17 Nov. 2010
By Joe Drape - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Wow. This is the best book I've read in a long time, finished it in one sitting. It also is quite rightfully a finalist for the National Book Award. It's true literature. Anyone who knows anything about horse racing will be captivated as Gordon perfectly evokes the beauty and grit as well as the desperation and hope of racetrackers who inhabit a down and out track in West Virginia. There's a gentlemanly loan shark, a broken down groom, a crazy trainer, a crooked one and a head strong girl. Some of them love their broken down horses, others could not care less about them. All of them live for the thrill of the betting coup and a cashed ticket. You breath the red dust and hear the leaky roofs of horse racing's grits-and-hard-toast-circuit as it is beautifully written. Ultimately, Gordon said in an interview, Lord of Misrule is about "trying to figure out what the shape of your luck on Earth is and, one way or another, come to terms with that. It's very much about courting that message from the gods that you were destined for something special, and most of the characters of the book have to settle for what they get." The last line of the book is beautiful and haunting.
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
this sport will drive you mad 15 Mar. 2011
By Mara Dabrishus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I've been trying to think of a way to discuss this book in an intelligent manner since I received it a few months ago, which, incidentally, is about as long as it took me to finish it. I got stuck about two thirds in, which is usually when I throw up my hands and start screaming, "What did I do to deserve this?! I quit!" and yet I buckled down and picked it back up again. So here we are.

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. Sure, sprinkling a little bit of it in the stall of a horse you want to win might pay off in the short term, but that horse probably won't live to see the next morning.

Another aspect that I fell in love with was Tommy's sanity. It comes and goes, but he is always written in the second person (heavy-handed, maybe) and that just drives it home. However, for as crazy as he winds up being, he's just fully awesome. In a scary psycho way that the author doesn't shy away from.

But the book did wind up losing me, and it wound up doing that for two reasons: rambling and lack of story. There isn't a lot of story in this book. In fact, what plot there is would probably be more suited to a novella or short story than a full-length novel. It's padded with pages and pages and pages of description and tangents that might have been called character development if I felt they had been headed in that direction. Instead they only seemed to drown out the vibrancy of the characters and left me wanting. There is such a thing as too much, and I think this book hit it over and over again. The plot...while definitely recognizable at the end, was shaky in the beginning. If you're not careful, you can miss it entirely and find yourself wondering just what is going on by the middle of the book.

Also, there are no quotation marks. If that irks you, you'll loathe it. It's my personal opinion that lack of quotation marks works only if you're using your words sparingly. This novel is full to overflowing with words, so it's easy to get lost and forced to start sentences over.

So...all together I'd say that there are moments in this book that I loved. Moments I wish had stretched out and kept hooking me to the end, but unfortunately there were too many long moments of navel-gazing that knocked over my interest. Did I get it back again? Yes. It was just hard getting there.
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
The Loser's Circle: The Underbelly of Horse Racing 27 Nov. 2010
By Jill I. Shtulman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Most of us, when we think of horse racing, conjure up a mint-juleps-and-roses vision of the Kentucky Derby or perhaps, Churchill Downs, attended by jewel-studded rich folk dressed up in their finery with cash to burn.

But at the rock-bottom end of the sport, horse racing is a whole other world - a world inhabited by down-on-their-luck trainers and jockeys, loan sharks and crooks, gyps and hotwalkers. This is the world Jaimy Gordon takes on - Indian Mound Downs, where the horses are mostly aging, drugged, or lame and the trainers are as crooked and cynical as they come.

Into this world steps Maggie, a young, college-educated frizzly-haired, naïve girl who has hitched her wagon to her boyfriend Tommy's star - a "young fool" with a scheme to rescue his failing stable. He intends to ship four down-and-out horses there, race them at long odds, take the money and run before anyone knows what's happened. But Maggie and Tommy don't really have a clue what they're up against - jaded and desperate men for whom horses mean nothing and people mean even less.

Jaimy Gordon knows her way around this world and she certainly knows her horses. Each of the four parts of the book is centered on an individual horse - Mr. Boll Weevil, Little Spinoza, Pelter, and the "devil horse" Lord of Misrule. These are horses filled with personality, treading their way into the flying mud with chopping legs and nostrils cavernous and flaring, neurotic as all hell, almost but not quite ready to live up to their potential. The descriptions of the horses and the races they enter and the conditions they endure are among the finest you're ever likely to read.

Ms. Gordon's idiosyncratic people are slightly less developed, mainly because they are down-and-out and trapped. Some of them shine: Medicine Ed, for example, who dispenses drugs to the horses is beautifully depicted and Maggie - and her cruel awakening - is also detailed with fine strokes. So is Two-Tie, Maggie's gangster uncle who strives to be her protector. Others - including Tommy -- are less so.

These lowlifes speak in their own racetrack patois (and it helps to know at least be open to learning this patois); they are limited and restricted, unable to survive without the dust of the racetrack. It's difficult to even think of these racetrack hanger-ons existing in the outside world -- perhaps the one glaring fault of the novel. The characters become secondary to the world they live in, bit players who strut and fret their hour on stage when ultimately, they are mostly doomed.

Tommy reflects: "Now it all falls into place. Before, you thought you knew, and felt your way along blindly. And though this world is a black tunnel of love where the gods admonished you to search without rest for your lost twin, it's also haired all over with false pointers, evil instructions, lost-forever dead-ends."

There is a propulsive energy to Lord of Misrule, a voice that's strong and original, and an intimate knowledge that's in turn poignant, comic, heartbreaking, and suspenseful. The surprise winner of the National Book Award this year, Lord of Misrule brings the reader into the vortex of this world, squeezes tight, and doesn't let go.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Too much affectation 19 Mar. 2011
By db1776 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Lord of Misrule" is written in the voices of the various characters that populate the book which can be an effective way of immersing a reader in a story. When this approach is limited to the dialogue, a book may be quite enjoyable, but the author allows her methodology to permeate the grammatical structure, or rather the lack of structure, as well and makes the story unnecessarily hard to follow. Additionally the book contains repetitions in the plot that may be intended to show the differences in the characters perspectives, but since often they are almost verbatim recitations of earlier passages, they offer no additional insight, and often lead to further confusion. Maybe this book is written to appeal to aficionados of literary style rather than someone just looking for a good story. It's similar to getting "Finnegans Wake" when you were looking for "Ulysses".
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