Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon won the National Book Award for Fiction last month. The book’s title is taken from the name of a horse at a seedy, fictional racetrack in West Virginia. As a novelist, Jaimy Gordon has been championed by a few during her years of obscurity, and was, as the New York Times acknowleges in their review, barely noticed by that august publication at all. The Times admits, however, that “this novel is so assured, exotic and uncategorizable, with such an unlikely provenance, that it arrives as an incontrovertible winner, a bona fide bolt from the blue.
The story emerges from that hidden world—the backstretch of the racetrack—unknown to even most horse enthusiasts. It is authoritatively drawn by the author with imaginative characters and inspired dialog. The book is divided into four horseraces, the intrigue deriving not so much from the question of which horse will win but from murkier issues such as the rules of claiming races and the archane culture of the backstretch.
Read more in Janet Maslin’s column in the New York Times.
December 14, 2010