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Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Sonby John Jeremiah Sullivan
Synopses & Reviews
"Sullivan has found the transcendent in the horse."--Sports Illustrated
Winner of a 2004 Whiting Writers' Award
One evening late in his life, veteran sportswriter Mike Sullivan was asked by his son what he remembered best from his three decades in the press box. The answer came as a surprise. "I was at Secretariat's Derby, in '73. That was ... just beauty, you know?"
John Jeremiah Sullivan didn't know, not really-but he spent two years finding out, journeying from prehistoric caves to the Kentucky Derby in pursuit of what Edwin Muir called "our long-lost archaic companionship" with the horse. The result-winner of a National Magazine Award and named a Book of the Year by The Economist magazine-is an unprecedented look at Equus caballus, incorporating elements of memoir, reportage, and the picture gallery.
In the words of the New York Review of Books, Blood Horses "reads like Moby-Dick as edited by F. Scott Fitzgerald . . . Sullivan is an original and greatly gifted writer."
"Wisdom that is both personal and universal . . . Brilliant"--Chicago Tribune
"A splendid account of [the] Triple Crown . . . In horses' beauty and power, and with their hint of danger even when schooled, Sullivan senses a restoration of what has been lost to us."--The New York Times
"As unconventionally lovely a book as you are likely to read for some time."--The Arkansas Democrat Gazette
"A clear picture of a highly specialized world . . . A gem of curiosity."--The Associated Press
"Sullivan subtly extends the theme of bloodlines to make this book as much about family as it is about horses . . . Its appeal isn't limited to the equine crowd."--0Outside
John Jeremiah Sullivan is a writer-at-large for GQ and a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine.
"[U]nexpectedly hilarious....Sullivan...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." Publishers Weekly
"The diverting facts and opinion comprise very agreeable reportage....But it is not simply a love letter to horseflesh; it is a warm elegy for a man, a father, as well." Kirkus Reviews
"Illuminates the art of the sportswriter like no book I've read, while tracing the startling links among animals, gambling, dads, and what we habitually think of as the more serious issues of the world. Secretariat, Funny Cide, Kafka, and Osama bin Laden? You bet." James McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street
"Sullivan does his father, and horses — and an astonishing range and weave of related sources of fascination — proud." Roy Blount, Jr.
"Sullivan takes us over the tangled courses that horse and man have run together with a natural lyricism and the born storyteller's knack for the unexpected. Blood Horses escorts us to the thick of this race, where the surehanded author looks mortality in the eye, and displays the gifts his father passed on in abundance: arresting language, a keen eye for the ridiculous, and a horseman's love for the mysterious creature at the heart of our shared history." Kevin Conley, author of Stud
"In the genre of American turfwriting, John Jeremiah Sullivan's Blood Horses is truly an original — a literary hybrid that ranges gracefully from the horse in prehistory to the horse in war to the running of the Kentucky Derby; from the sad life of Stephen Foster to the limestone geology of the Blue Grass to Secretariat's astonishing tour de force in the 1973 Triple Crown; and from the blue-blood yearling sales at Keeneland to the poignant story surrounding the life and death of Sullivan's endearing, Irishly romantic father. Blood Horses is an always fascinating, often touching read." William Nack, author of Secretariat
"A young man's day at the races and, along the way, a superb history of the gambler's sport." Elizabeth Hardwick
Incorporating elements of memoir and reportage, the son of sportswriter Mike Sullivan pens a witty, encyclopedic, and in the end profound meditation on what Edwin Muir called our "long-lost archaic companionship" with the horse.
One evening late in his life, veteran sportswriter Mike Sullivan was asked by his son what he remembered best from his three decades in the press box. The answer came as a surprise. "I was at Secretariat's Derby, in '73. That was . . . just beauty, you know?"
Sullivan didn't know, not really: the track had always been a place his father disappeared to once a year on business, a source of souvenir glasses and inscrutable passions in his Kentucky relatives. But in 2000, Sullivan, an editor and essayist for Harper's, decided to educate himself. He spent two years following the horse-both across the country, as he watched one season's juvenile crop prepare for the Triple Crown, and through time, as he tracked the animal's constant evolution in literature and art, from the ponies that appeared on the walls of European caves 30,000 years ago, to the mounts that carried the Indo-European language to the edges of the Old World, to the finely tuned but fragile yearlings that are auctioned off for millions of dollars apiece every spring and fall.
The result is a witty, encyclopedic, and in the end profound meditation on what Edwin Muir called our "long-lost archaic companionship" with the horse. Incorporating elements of memoir and reportage, the Wunderkammer and the picture gallery, Blood Horses lets us see--as we have never seen before--the animal that, more than any other, made us who we are.
About the Author
John Jeremiah Sullivan is an editor at Harper's and a former editor of The Oxford American. This is his first book.
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