And there are, of course, the horses. In her youth, Gordon spent three years working the racetracks, and she knows horses. She can describe a horse or a race in a way that shows both her knowledge and her love. Here's part of one race with a horse named Little Spinoza:
But Little Spinoza hadn't waited, they were five lengths behind the worst horse at the clubhouse turn when Little Spinoza opened out, pumping in long glides like a water strider, and closed on the ragged back end of the field. He ate up the two horses who had dropped out of it. What did he want the ones in front for?Fine as this kind of writing is, Gordon is doing more than a literary version of calling a race. The characters connect with the horses because the horses are a mirror or an extension of their human emotions; the precocious young woman finds that she is involved with the horses and the other characters because "she would have hated to be left out of the trap of flesh altogether." That trap has the chaos of love and greed, loss and ambition that is the stuff of much of our best fiction, and because of that this book was given the big prize.
Jaimy Gordon reads from Lord of Misrule and talks about the book at the Jewish Book Festival on November 1.
[Originally published in November, 2011.]