JC / Railbird

Lord of Misrule

Thursday Notes

The March 12 Timely Writer drew 36 nominations, including 13 from trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn. (Even if Pletcher has to saddle the entire field, he’ll ensure the race fills?) Early Derby fave Uncle Mo heads the list; maiden winner Cal Nation is an intriguing possible. Dialed In is also among the nominees. If the Nick Zito trainee does start, the match-up could make the ungraded one-mile Timely Writer the most significant Derby prep yet this season. [Never mind. The Tampa Bay Derby is looking more likely. Dialed In will start in a two-turn Gulfstream allowance on Sunday.]

Every year around this time, someone’s Derby fever turns to Derby delirium. Flashpoint’s trainer, unlike his owner, is just a little hot.

Undefeated top-rated Frankel has a big year ahead as a 3-year-old, rider Tom Queally told a UK radio show. “[H]e’s trained on nicely, we think. I’ve seen him and he seems to have done very well.” Support for the even-money 2000 Guineas favorite has been “relentless,” said a Ladbrokes spokesperson.

More recognition for Jaimy Gordon’s racetrack novel, “Lord of Misrule,” now a 2011 PEN/Faulkner award finalist. It goes up against “Nox” on March 14, in round one of the Morning News Tournament of Books.

This again? The constant strife in this game is a real downer. As is having to keep two ADW accounts. Magna, Churchill ADWs are at odds over signals.

Such Different Books

TD Thornton on why he wrote “Not by a Long Shot”:

I read a lot of great books about the sport’s champions and iconic figures, but after awhile, it started to dawn on me that very few of those books spoke of the racetrack as I knew it — minimum-wage stable hands busting ice out of frozen water buckets, jockeys who starve themselves to make riding weight, fragile, beautiful horses with immeasurable tenacity. All of these elements keep the industry humming along in unheralded fashion so the highest echelon of the game can bask in the spotlight, yet these people and horses never seem to have a voice. I wanted to give them one.

Jaimy Gordon on her motivation for “Lord of Misrule”:

Of course, I read “Horse Heaven,’’ Jane Smiley’s novel. But the owners in “Horse Heaven’’ are respectable, upper-middle-class people, not like people I used to know on the racetrack.

I hoped I might write a book like Leonard Gardner’s “Fat City.” To me, that’s the best novel about American boxing, and yet it’s about boxing at its absolute bottom end, around Stockton, Calif. That’s what I wanted to do — write a book about horse racing at its low end, in an era considerably before the present moment, and see if there wasn’t an open niche for that.

Such similar urges to storytelling.

More Misrule

John Williams reviews Jaimy Gordon’s racetrack novel:

Lord of Misrule isn’t a chore. It’s more accurate to say that it alternately charms and befuddles. It’s possible to move from deep admiration to deep suspicion of it in the space between paragraphs. It’s wise and flaky. It’s funny intentionally and unintentionally. It begins with a bit of overworked imagery and ends with a great plainspoken sentence.

Odds on the NBA winner collects the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award?

“Lord of Misrule” is also among the 16 works competing for the Rooster in the Morning News’ annual Tournament of Books, which begins March 7. Tough competition there; “Super Sad True Love Story” is a solid favorite for the title.

Uneven Form

Janet Maslin in today’s New York Times:

“Lord of Misrule” edges toward some drastic final twists without ever escaping the impression that it is more of a short-story cycle than a full-fledged novel. And its texture is thick even when Ms. Gordon is at her most lighthearted. But this book is best remembered for flashes of startling beauty, despite a racetrack milieu of “la crème da la crud.”

That sums up my impression of the novel, after I finished reading it last week. Amid the dense and often lumbering prose, a scene will open up, gorgeous and true in its rococo lushness. It’s best read for those stunning bits.

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