Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lord of Misrule” as Want to Read:
Lord of Misrule
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
read excerpt* *Different edition

Lord of Misrule

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  2,016 ratings  ·  515 reviews
A brilliantnovel that captures the dusty, dark, and beautiful world of small-time horse racing, where trainers, jockeys, grooms and grifters vie for what little luck is offered at a run-down West Virginia track .

Tommy Hansel has a plan: run four horses, all better than they look on paper, at long odds at Indian Mound Downs, then grab the purse -- or cash a bet -- and run...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published March 8th 2011 by Vintage (first published 2010)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lord of Misrule, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Lord of Misrule

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Chuck Lowry
I guess, honestly, I must have missed something. I read this book for two reasons, because it won the National Book Award and because it was about horseracing, in which I have had great interest at various times in my life. Ah, but the National Book Award--Walker Percy for The Moviegoer, Alice McDermott for Charming Billy, Saul Bellow for The Adventures of Augie March, Bernard Malamud for The Fixer. Add Lord of Misrule to these and it is an easy game of "Which Doesn't Belong and Why?"

It is poss...more
Bonnie
I had a love-hate relationship with this book, or at least a like-hate relationship. I have to admit I'm surprised it won a National Book Award. That's the best there is out there? Ugh. It is everything stereotypically bad about the backside of a racetrack. Broken down claimers held together with glue (and a myriad of drugs, legal and illegal), gamblers fixing races, the organized crime mafioso lording it over the lesser humans at the track, a brutal breakdown during a race, and a woman in starr...more
jo
this book is really, really, really good and you must read it. it may not be for everyone (what book is) but, man, this woman can write, and the story is fantastic. i love these characters. i love the horses. i love the low fog that keeps you from seeing your feet at 4 in the morning. i like how madness slowly creeps into a character and makes him both repellant and awesome. i like the tough women. i LOVE medicine ed. it's a small world but so, so rich. kind of like a family-run freak show, but...more
Jessie
I can see how this is the kind of thing people like - it's written in poetical dialect, and it focuses on a very oldfashioned, very specific subculture, and racing is the kind of space that brings people together, so you can have the old black groom, and the young jewish woman, and the crazy irishman.... And since it takes place in the fuzzy old 1970s, there were more regionalisms, no cellphones, less stuff.... I don't know. It was enjoyable enough in its own way, and maybe it's partly difficult...more
Mark
What an unusual novel!

I found Lord of Misrule a difficult read. It is not a "page turner that you can not wait to get back to". Ms. Gordon uses a staccato cadence and pacing which never settles into a comfortable flow. There are several deep dialects that never become familiar. You are not always sure who is speaking to whom, even occasionally whether human is speaking to human or to an animal.

This is not a book about horse racing. It is a book about hardscrabble people in a hardscrabble place...more
Heather
Well this one really fizzles out. I stuck with it to the end, because I did enjoy the style. I was in the mood to be challenged by a book, and Lord of Misrule is challenging. No skimming! you have to read every word and some sentences are more like puzzles. Dialect and racing argot and convoluted syntax and weird nicknames ("It was not a harming goofer that Medicine Ed knew the making of.") And no quotation marks to help you follow the dialogue:
______
Medicine Ed laughed a little. I reckon that G...more
Matt
I feel like I almost know the writer too well to really respond impartially to this book; I had her as a teacher, once read almost all her works to prepare to interview her, etc. So, I'm at once really primed to like Jaimy's work, but also perversely in tune to how she sometimes repeats herself.

In this book, we get another version of the precocious female narrator, the same one we've seen in Bogeywoman, She Drove, and in one could argue, The Bend, The Lip, the Kid. It's a little awkward, too, gi...more
Mark
Lord of Misrule is the story of the trainers, grooms, jockeys and assorted hangers on at a seedy racetrack in West Virginia. I love horse racing and so I eagerly anticipated the novel, especially after learning that it had won the National Book Award.
Unfortunately, little about the story rang true. The story is told from the point of view of several characters, a technique that is quickly becoming hackneyed. One of the characters is Medicine Ed, the African American groom. Ed's narration is su...more
Bev Hankins
Sep 26, 2011 Bev Hankins rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bev by: Richard Nash
Shelves: fiction
Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon opens with "Inside the back gate of Indian Mound Downs, a hot-walking machine creaked round and round. In the judgment of Medicine Ed, walking a horse himself on the shedrow of Barn Z, the going-nowhere contraption must be the lost soul of this cheap racetrack where he been ended up at." That hot-walking machine provides the metaphor for the cheap claiming race track at the rock-bottom end of the sport of kings.

Gordon's National Book Award winner is all about the...more
Maya Lang
As Janet Maslin points out in her lovely review in the New York Times, the fact that this novel won the National Book Award makes Jaimy Gordon herself a kind of dark horse. It thrills me that this novel won, because it is the kind of challenging, inventive novel that doesn't sell many copies or get noticed by the big outlets (certainly, the Times had never taken notice of Gordon) because it is so *different.*

So, a quick word: this is not a novel for everyone. If I were teaching this novel, I wou...more
Jim
There's a reason for using certain styles, like dialog with quotes, he said & she said. This is all mixed up with some sentences being thoughts while others are apparently supposed to be dialog. Seems like the author knows what he/she is talking about, but it's just too much work trying to read this.
Diane
Winner of the National Book Award but for the life of me I can't figure out why. There are good things about it and Gordon writes some very vivid images, but the book was uneven at best. It is the early 70's at a seedy horse track in West Virginia. There are mafia types fixing races and beating up the locals. The characters are sketchy in both senses of the word. Sometimes dramatic things are happening to them without enough explanation. The style is odd. There are multiple narrators and it's ha...more
Zach
I have to be honest, the only reason I picked this book up was because the author, Jaimy Gordon, was going to be giving a lecture in town. I didn't care about small-stakes horse racing, and I'm always wary of award winners. As soon as I finished the second chapter, though, I was hooked, and the novel kept getting better from there. Gordon crafts a collection of excellent characters, from the young and naive Maggie, to the veteran Medicine Ed (whose dialect is pitch perfect and never difficult to...more
Jeremy Hauck
What a terrible book. Really, how did it end up winning the National Book Award? No, really?

Somewhere just before the middle, the book lost all its steam and I lost interest in the plights of any of its characters. And the zazz never came back. But I finished it anyway because I'm on spring break and I brought only three books, and this one is in hardcover.

Lord of Misrule is a hodgepodge of a poetic, descriptive style that relies heavily on horsetrack jargon, and which becomes increasingly visco...more
Tony
13. Gordon, Jaimy. LORD OF MISRULE. (2010). ****. I personally found this a difficult book to get into. After the first fifty pages or so, however, after most of the principal characters had been introduced, you realize that Ms. Gordon is a very skilful writer. The jacket liner compares her to a blend of Nathanael West, Damon Runyon, and Eudora Welty. I’d have to agree but I’d a little Faulkner, too. The story centers around the world of cheap racing, “where trainers and jockeys, grooms and hors...more
Jill
Most of us, when we think of horse racing, conjure up a mint-juleps-and-roses vision of the Kentucky Derby or perhaps, Churchill Downs, attended by jewel-studded rich folk dressed up in their finery with cash to burn.

But at the rock-bottom end of the sport, horse racing is a whole other world – a world inhabited by down-on-their-luck trainers and jockeys, loan sharks and crooks, gyps and hotwalkers. This is the world Jaimy Gordon takes on – Indian Mound Downs, where the horses are mostly aging,...more
Tom
This book was a victim of inflated expectations and anticipation. I wanted to like it; I wanted to love it. Wanted to love it so much that I put off reading it for months, which stretched into years. I wanted this book to complete a literary Triple Crown, the fictional leg of an Equine Trilogy that included the bio /history "Seabiscuit," by Laura Hillenbrand, and the memoir
Laughing in the Hillsby Bill Barich. I wanted Secretariat winning the Belmont by 30 lengths and got a raw, gutsy 'mudder' wi...more
Joe Drape
Wow. This is the best book I've read in a long time, finished it in one sitting. It also is quite rightfully a finalist for the National Book Award. It's true literature. Anyone who knows anything about horse racing will be captivated as Gordon perfectly evokes the beauty and grit as well as the desperation and hope of racetrackers who inhabit a down and out track in West Virginia. There's a gentlemanly loan shark, a broken down groom, a crazy trainer, a crooked one and a head strong girl. Some...more
Sara
Lord of Misrule is a really good book, but I almost didn’t realize it. I read it more out of a sense of hometown pride—Hey, someone who teaches in Kalamazoo, Michigan won the National Book Award!—than any real knowledge of or interest in the book.
And at first I was stumped: Gordon takes us into a world that seems so foreign and gritty—the world of horse racing—and leaves us there to fend for ourselves. I know nothing about horse racing and have never been interested in it, and Gordon doesn’t...more
Mara
Three stars may be too generous for a book that made me want to put it down and never look at it again until, in some fit of determination, I forced myself to drop everything and finish it already. I am not a fan of rambling, which this book tends to do to the nth degree, shoving in padding where story ought to be and isn't. Frankly, Lord of Misrule is light on story. So much so that when the story suddenly appears it's almost like getting smacked in the face after pages and pages of slogging th...more
Abigail Beckwith
Lord of Misrule is filled with tough characters at a 1970s racetrack, all down on their luck and all fairly horse-obsessed. The book is filled with great descriptions of their lives and the world they live it. However, I felt the descriptions sometimes went too far and too long and I found myself getting lost. This particularly happened because there are no quotation marks for dialogue. Sometimes I was unsure what was inner monologue and what was actually said! The book switches characters, who...more
Joan Colby
. I recognized I was in the presence of a fine talent when early on I encountered this description: “He was an unhealthy looking man of a drained cement color.” And of course, I fell for what Hemingway would call “the true gen” of the racetrack setting and characters. One is inclined to think Gordon must have spent years on the backside, but the probability is that, as an English professor, she relied on research. I’d love to know though, as the verisimilitude of “Lord of Misrule” is remarkable....more
Lucinda
Picked this book up because it was on a number of lists (Pen/Faulkner nominee 2011, and National book award winner 2010) which usually sparks my curiosity. Not that winning an award necessarily means the book is something I would like (the sentimentalists as case in point). in any case, I highly doubt I would have chosen this book otherwise. A book about small-time horse-racing? I have never had any interest nor concern with this 'sport', but Gordon really drew me in. it is its own little microc...more
Kat Hagedorn
http://tinyurl.com/684lvv6

Absolutely, I would title my book after the best horse name in the biz. (Or at least the best horse name in this book.) I think "Lord of Misrule" trumps "Pelter," "Little Spinoza," and "Little Boll Weevil" (although that last one is fairly awesome). Strangely, though, this book isn't really about horses. It's about how we've transformed horses into a substrata of American culture, and all the wonderful and scuzzy things that come from having done that.

I'm sure the book...more
David Granger
First, I have to confess to a bias: I love horse racing! I love the lore and I love watching those beautiful animals run for the roses, the black-eyed susans, whatever. And I know a little about the sport. I know what a "claimer" is and I also knew, coming into this book, that horse-racing --- particularly at the smaller, lesser-known tracks --- has its ugly underbelly.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way, I loved Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon. I have to admit to being thrown a bit at the b...more
Mainon
This book started off fantastic -- the imagery was striking, the characters were interesting, and the occasional use of dialect wasn't too intrusive.

About halfway through the book, though, I started losing my handle on the book. I found myself having trouble remembering which horse was which, and what connected the various characters to which horses. For obvious reasons, that made the book much less enjoyable. By the end, I was even a little unsure that I understood why people were doing what th...more
Rachel Ludwig
Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule is an excellent and unique read. The setting is Indian Mound Downs, a rundown racetrack in West Virginia. There are four main characters: Tommy Hansel and Maggie Koderer who hope of winning big and moving on to the next track; Medicine Ed, the old groom who dreams of winning enough to retire to Florida; and the loan shark and loner, Two-Tie, who is growing increasingly tired of the racetrack game. Gordon constructs these characters as well as a myriad of other char...more
Joseph
There is a reason Lord of Misrule won the National Book Award. Gordon expertly employees four separate third-person narrators (well, one is actually second-person) throughout the entire book. Each chapter dives into a different characters head and never once does the reader feel at a loss for who is the focus.

Every character in this book is trying to stack the odds in their favor to either simply survive in or walk away very rich from the horse racing world. The truth is that they are all suscep...more
Terry
Avg 3.24? Really? I absolutely loved the writing in this novel--it was fearless, raw, challenging. Perhaps that accounts for the absurdly low rating--clearly, Gordon doesn't care if people are turned off by her characters or content. But it's also not gratuitous; this is not a writer being flashy or going over the top. It's a refreshingly honest portrayal of a group of people at the bottom, all working, scheming, and dreaming to make it big in the world of horse-racing. But not Kentucky Derby-ho...more
Sara Warner
This is a wildly great novel. Jaimy Gordon creates the seedy and dangerous life of the dregs of the horse racing world...claiming races, broken down horses and people struggling to hang on to their last square inch of power. Gordon is a magician with language. She envelopes this weird and grittily exotic world in a fog of desire, cruelty, love and nobility, never letting up on her breakneck race to save what matters--if only we can figure out what that is. She is a story-teller extraordinaire, a...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Crown of Feathers
  • Ten North Frederick
  • The Hair of Harold Roux
  • Paco's Story
  • The News from Paraguay
  • Spartina
  • The Eighth Day
  • Morte D'Urban
  • In America
  • A Frolic of His Own
  • I Hotel
  • Victory Over Japan: A Book of Stories
  • The Great Fire
  • Shadow Country
  • Europe Central
  • Mr. Sammler's Planet
  • American Salvage
  • Middle Passage
246730
Jaimy Gordon's third novel, Bogeywoman was on the Los Angeles Times list of Best Books for 2000. Her second novel, She Drove Without Stopping, brought her an Academy-Institute Award for her fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Gordon's short story, "A Night's Work," which shares a number of characters with Lord of Misrule, appeared in Best American Short Stories 1995. She is also...more
More about Jaimy Gordon...
Bogeywoman She Drove Without Stopping Shamp of the City-Solo The Bend, The Lip, The Kid: Reallife Stories Circumspections from an Equestrian Statue

Share This Book

“Her hands felt their way blindly along the ridges and canyons and defiles of the spine, the firm root-spread hillocks of the withers. She rolled her bony knuckles all along the fallen tree of scar tissue at the crest of the back, prying up its branches, loosening its teeth. And it must be having some effect: when she walked Pelter these days he wasn't the sour fellow he used to be, he was sportive, even funny. She had walked him this morning until the rising sun snagged in the hackberry thicket. As they swung around the barn, she took a carrot from her pocket and gave him the butt and noisily toothed the good half herself. He curvetted like a colt, squealed, and cow-kicked alarmingly near her groin. Okay, okay, she said, and handed it over. She was glad there was no man around just then to tell her to show that horse who was boss. When they were back in the stall and she turned to leave, she found he had taken he whole raincoat in his mouth and was chewing it--the one she was wearing. She twisted around with difficulty and pried it out of his mouth. He eyed her ironically. Just between us, is this the sort of horse act I really ought to discipline? she asked him, smoothing out her coat. I simply incline to your company, he replied.” 3 likes
“He was insane, he thought people were trying to destroy him, to suck out his guts, but, she noted, in the rare event that someone was trying to destroy you, to suck out your guts, insanity was a goodly metaphysics.” 2 likes
More quotes…