- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: NYRB Classics; Main edition (24 July 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781590174890
- ISBN-13: 978-1590174890
- ASIN: 1590174895
- Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 685,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Ride a Cockhorse (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 24 Jul 2012
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There is...something deeply compelling about Mrs Fitzgibbons. She is, clearly, monstrous and manipulative...but she sure as hell lights the story up (she is the story, of course) and we are, maturally, goggle-eyed to see what she'll get up to next(The Guardian)
About the Author
RAYMOND KENNEDY (1934-2008) was born and raised in western Massachusetts. In 1982, he joined the creative writing faculty at Columbia University, where he taught until his retirement in 2006. Kennedy’s other novels include My Father’s Orchard; Goodnight, Jupiter; Columbine; The Flower of the Republic; Lulu Incognito; The Bitterest Age; and The Romance of Eleanor Gray.
KATHERINE A. POWERS's column on books and writers ran for many years in The Boston Globe and now appears in The Barnes & Noble Review under the title “A Reading Life.” She is the editor of Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life—The Letters of J. F. Powers, 1942–1963, forthcoming in 2013.
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Top Customer Reviews
Frankie's rise to power is inextricably linked with her sexuality. The fear and fawning she inspires sexually excites her, and the seduction of a high-school drum major, graphically described in the opening chapters, is only the first in a series of increasingly shocking predations. I'm still not sure what to make of this aspect of the book which at times made me feel uncomfortable, as if Frankie was serving as a caricature of a high-powered career woman. I think Frankie is such a monster, though, and her personality change so sudden and tinged with madness, that ultimately she transcends such a reading.
The unrelenting nature of this novel made it an interesting, if not always enjoyable, read. Katherine A. Powers, in her introduction calls it 'an all-American oddity', which is certainly true. There is rarely a respite from Frankie's megalomania and paranoia, evinced in her many dictatorial boasts and tirades. One is propelled forward in disbelief at how far Frankie will go and how high she will rise. This almost hysterical intensity, however, is repaid by Kennedy's moving and thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Given her lack of traditional management skills, experience and academic training, Fitzgibbon relies on an instinctive sense of how to amass and consolidate influence. She uses the media to create her own image ("appealing to a vulgar streak in your readers") and fires employees indiscriminately to create instability and fear. Fitzgibbons is self-obssessed ("I haven't been spoiled enough in my life") and cynical ("The public wants to believe the worst about people anyhow"). She possesses a healthy disrespect for the educated, describing them as those who "went away to school to avoid being contaminated by the rest of us."
Like Mussolini, she summons people to her office and makes them cross a wide expanse of open carpet to reach her desk, a requirement she guesses will abash even the stoutest heart.
Raymond Kennedy is plainly both repulsed and fascinated by the character he has created and saves his most pointed criticism for the forces that enable the Fitzgibbon reign of terror. First is the bank president who reluctantly supports Frankie because she helps grow the business. Second is the media who created Frankie Fitzgibbon but which sees itself as a neutral bystander which records but does not make the news. Finally, Kennedy excoriates the public who is thrilled at the rise to prominence of one of its members.
In the end, the author seems to ask if others are more responsible for Frankie's excesses than she is herself. If our older generation of elites surrenders its responsibility, the media aims for sensation rather than truth and the public wants only to see itself in its leaders, who will emerge to show the way forward? Ride a Cockhorse suggests that Frankie Fitzgibbons and her ilk are one possible answer.
Thinking back, the title might be the key. Frankie's mania is a toy horse of sorts and she rides it, for better or for worse. Simultaneously, Frankie is herself a toy horse of sorts and her employer rides HER, however unwittingly, to a victory that may not be Pyrrhic at all.
If we've learned anything about humanity here, though, perhaps it pertains to the nature of Leaders and the Led. There is a quiet moment in the final paragraphs when Mrs. Fitzgibbons gently demonstrates her ability to direct Bruce, and his need to be directed. Tellingly, Kennedy leaves us with only the two characters, and with that as his final thought.
The book is an enjoyable enough read. The story of the tyrannical psychopath Mrs. Fitzgibbons is, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes though, she moves into cringe-worthy. Her sexual motivations are confusing and brutal, and the reactions to her behavior by people around her fluctuate between painfully accurate to entirely unbelievable.
Her tirades are entertaining, but a bit redundant.
This book is worth a read, but it's lightness is hard to balance with a handful of genuinely disturbing scenes sprinkled in.