They Shoot Horses, Dont They? (Midnight classics) Paperback – 15 Sep 1995
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?Sordid, pathetic, senselessly exciting...has the immediacy - and the significance - of a nerve-shattering explosion? New Republic ?Were it not in its physical details so carefully documented, it would be lurid beyond itself? Nation ?Language is not minced in this short novel which presents life in its most brutal aspect? Saturday Review of Literature
Cult American noir now a Serpent's Tail Classic --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Dance marathons were popular forms of entertainment in 1920s and 30s America where couples, often strangers to one another, desperate for cash and food because of the Great Depression (they were given regular meals and a roof over their heads while they were in the competition) would enter. The rules were they had to keep moving (not necessarily dancing, just moving) for 1 hour 50 minutes and then allowed a 10 minute break. Often the couples would take turns sleeping on one another as the sheer exhaustion welled up over the oftentimes weeks-long endurance contest.
Strangely, this book reminded me of "The Hunger Games": the dance marathon is a sadistic endurance test watched by crowds of people starved for entertainment and lucky couples are sponsored by companies and given food and clothes as a result. It's kind of a lo-fi "Hunger Games" except the dance marathons were real.
Horace McCoy uses the dance marathon as a pessimistic metaphor for life, resembling the kind of miserable existence most people experienced in Depression-era America shuffling through life barely surviving, utterly fatigued, and watched by indifferent strangers until they collapsed, unable to go on with no reward for their effort.Read more ›
Thus the book begins...It's the 1930's right outside Hollywood in Santa Monica California and yet another version of the marathon dance craze is being enacted. Two Hollywood hopefuls, Gloria and Robert, happen upon one another and decide to team up, after all there's a $1,000 prize to the last couple standing. So begins this tortured story. It's one of struggle reflective of the depression. The couples are required to stay in motion with a ten minute rest break every so often and meals eaten standing up but a free meal is a free meal! There's a creepy zoo like feel as an audience gathers to watch the couples in the center. Robert longs to see the sun but is prodded back into the building by his keepers; Gloria is in despair and keeps saying she wants to die. Nerves become more and more frazzled.
The 70's movie starring Jane Fonda as Gloria might even be better than the book. Though there is much license taken with the book, the movie is more overt in the theme of struggle and the dichotomy between the rich vs. poor during the depression, it's still incredibly well done and worth watching. Sadly it seems relevant to our contemporary situations in many ways. McCoy however, gives a wider palette of emotions and issues in his writing. He emphasizes the morality of the character's actions. It has sub themes such as who is a criminal, is it ever moral to kill and if so in what situation(s)? McCoy also touches on the exploitation of people especially of women. Last is the theme of reconciling the childhood heartbreaks and the values they've inherited from those early sorrows and how people carry that pain into adulthood. As I'm sure you gathered both from McCoy's title and my reactions to his book this isn't a feel good experience but it's well worth taking the time to read this vintage story.
This review was based on an egalley provided by the publisher.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
short sweet with a simple message. Not quite sure how relevant it still is these days but a good reflection on days gone past none the less.Published 11 months ago by T. Jacobs
An absolute fantastic read. I didn't like the film but the book made excellent reading.Published 19 months ago by Maz 6773
I only knew this from the film, but the book is a true classic. What a great idea; what a great title!!Published 21 months ago by Georgina Titmus
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? has to be one of America's greatest novels. Horace McCoy depicts the dance marathons of the thirties with incredible poignance.Published on 18 Oct. 2013 by EMMA