JC / Railbird

Reading Palmer

On the Second Pass, John Williams resurrects Joe Palmer for a new audience:

I don’t want to give the impression that an interest in the sport, or a knowledge of its history, is entirely unnecessary to an enjoyment of This Was Racing. But it’s easy enough to skim any confounding details and focus on the more universal sentiments. Like many great writers and conversationalists, Palmer mostly circled his ostensible subject, rarely landing on it. The most memorable stretches of the book aren’t about racing at all. They’re about recipes for jellied whiskey or the Australian hobby of “kangaroo chasing” or listening to a band torture “My Old Kentucky Home.” (”I could have played it better on a comb.”)

More than half a century removed from his work, it is good to be reminded of what a master turf writer Palmer was. Read the complete review (and then, if you haven’t, “This Was Racing”).

From the archives: An excerpt from “This Was Racing” about trainers Duval and Hal Price Headley, Menow, and the 1938 MassCap.