BLOOD HORSES: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son

John Jeremiah Sullivan, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $22 (261p) ISBN 978-0-374-17281-7

Horse racing does not lend itself easily to the drama and characters of most sports, because, as the author puts it, "when your Sammy Sosa has four legs, cannot speak, and has, to all appearances, no idea what people are so worked up about, you have to work harder to generate narrative." In his own quest to trace racing's history and capture its urgency, Sullivan, a former Harper's editor, has indeed worked hard but made it look effortless. He has found narrative not in a particular horse but in The Horse—the cultural, literary and biological phenomenon. It would be easy to expect, in this post-Seabiscuit age, a tale of the triumphant underdog, but Sullivan has more reflective pleasures on his mind. He alternates a history of the South, particularly of Lexington, Ky., where he spent time as a child and where much of the American horse-racing industry is concentrated, with a larger cultural and historical examination. His riffs are also unexpectedly hilarious, especially when he takes a gonzo-ish trip to the Kentucky Derby. Running throughout is the story of Sullivan's late father, a longtime sportswriter and dreamer whom the author lovingly, but largely unsentimentally, worships, and whose presence provides a kind of magnetic pull without overwhelming the book. Sullivan, who won a National Magazine Award for the piece on which this book was based, has a fairly liberal approach to structure and pace, but no matter: he has written a history as sweeping as it is personal and whose coherence is made more impressive by its lack of central drama—a book that is, in short, as remarkable as the finest horses it documents. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-312-42376-6
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4481-1436-8
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4299-2808-3
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