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Ride a Cockhorse (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 24 Jul 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • 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)

Product Description


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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By Eleanor TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Ride a Cockhorse" begins with two major changes in Frankie Fitzgibbons's life: 'the discovery that she possessed a gift for persuasive speech' and 'the sudden quickening of her libido'. It is these two changes that propel the novel forward, as 45-year-old Frankie goes from being a quiet pleasant bank worker to a tyrannical sexual predator. Her new-found voice results in a reign of terror at her bank as, through sheer force of will, she bullies her way to the top. First published in 1991, "Ride a Cockhorse" is set in 1987 and is partly a comment on the financial deregulation and rapacity of the 1980s. The novel is also a satire on tyranny and its events are so outlandish that it almost resembles a fable.

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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars 11 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Of the brazen, the impertinent and the majestically presumptuous 24 July 2012
By The Ginger Man - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is quite a ride as loan officer "Frankie" Fitzgibbons is transformed from bank loan officer to chief executive and mad emperor through sheer will power and charisma. Unfortunately, she has few of the skills and none of the morality needed in her leadership role. She reigns instead as a "managerial version of Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts," says Katherine Powers in her Introduction. Ride a Cockhorse is a black comedy detailing the effects of irresponsible power and becomes "a grotesque expression of the spirit that seized America in the eighties." Frankie is a wonderful character, easy to hate and riveting to watch; the patron saint of "the brazen, the impertinent and the majestically presumptuous," in the words of Ms Powers.

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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a unique voice 26 Oct. 2012
By CVP - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is remarkable for many things, but mostly for its voice and its vision. It's rare to come across a book today with a voice that separates it from all others. You'll not confuse this one with others. Peter DeVries was and Eric Craft is similar. Their work is unique. The story here is simple. It's almost Metamorposis in reverse. Instead of a character waking to find him/herself turned into a bug, in this book a woman who's always been something of a bug wakes to become a human - and what a human at that. She puts the world under her foot and squashes it. It was written in the early days of feminism and it's a riff on that. Not a cynical one, but a funny and almost supportive one. It's a short book. It couldn't sustain its premise much longer. But it's funny and original and even sad when you consider the writer's no longer with us. His voice was never lauded even in his lifetime, but it's here again to be savored. So do that.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mania and Leadership 2 Sept. 2013
By Michael Moisio - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the writing and the story. The comedy is vicious even when it's slapstick. As to the plot, the clash of characters in the climax seems inevitable as the (anti)heroine becomes ever more martial in her mania, but it nicely turns the ostensible misogyny of office politics on its head. However, as I read, I never felt that Moment of Insight some books induce.

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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Equal parts fun, ridiculous, and sickening 21 Aug. 2012
By Matthew Wilding - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Raymond Kennedy's "Ride a Cockhorse" was published in 1991 as a satire reflecting an era of banking gone mad and where selfishness was in vogue. It's re-release today was well-timed, as the same issues of the late 1980s have reared their ugly heads again. The similarities in eras make this book feel very modern.

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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Mortgage Mania 20 May 2013
By K. Egan - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A mild-mannered, widowed, home loan officer one day starts talking back to her boss. What ensues is beyond imagining. A gripping book (I read it in one sitting) that at times consists entirely of the monologues of its protagonist, Mrs. Frankie Fitzgibbons, Ride a Cockhorse takes you inside the mind of a person experiencing the mania side of bipolar. At first things seem reasonable. Then one is proud of Frankie. Then things start to get weird. I won't give anything else away......
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