This is the 2010 National Book Award winner that beat a Peter Carey novel that is likely better (I haven’t read it but it’s well-received) and the Karen Tei Yamashita novel I Hotel which is absolutely brilliant and fantastic. So I don’t know what happened here. This book, when you read about it, sounds great: a down on his luck horse guy has a great idea for one last great score by kind of fixing four races on a single day. Cool, sounds great.
Oh, but not so fast. What if I told you there’s no “” marks? That sell you? What if I told you the the dialog which is “authentic” is actually cartoonishly goofy at times? What if I told you that big score barely makes any sense? What if I told you above all, this book is kind of boring?
So ultimately what it feels like has happened here is that a book that deserved less recognition got way more, and in an attempt to elevate a more independent press novel left us with something less than deserving the award here. What’s a shame there is that I Hotel is more daring, more audacious, brilliant, and also from an independent press. But it’s also 600 pages, and it wouldn’t surprise me if half the prize committee didn’t read it. I don’t spending a review of one book talking about another, but I feel a little pressed here. I think the other thing here is that race tracks loom large on the American consciousness, but so many of us have never actually been to a racetracks. This novel doesn’t ease us into that life, and that’s a good thing, but I felt very without even a recognizeable context here for the most part.