Synopses & Reviews
Centered around multi-million dollar stakes and a series of nationally televised poker tournaments, Fading Hearts on the River
offers a story of oddsthe odds of a newborn surviving severe jaundice, the odds of Congress passing a law that renders ones online gambling income inaccessible, the odds of drawing the right card on the turn or the river. In this tale of fatherhood and worldy success, Haxton follows his son Isaacs unlikely career as a poker player, the nervous father often sitting on the sidelines with his fingers crossed or staring at a casino monitor while Isaac wins more in one hand of play than Haxton has earned from all his books of poetry combined.
In this deftly crafted story Haxton explores the propensity for abstraction, logic, and memory all good poets and poker players share, all the while taking readers on a rollicking tour of complex, intertwined topics, ranging from game theory and financial strategies, to medical mysteries and lost love, to chess, Magic cards, and Texas Hold em. Guided by the through-line of a fathers love and admiration for his talented son, Fading Hearts delivers a unique perspective on professional gambling and one familys experience playing the odds.
"Poet and professor Haxton (Nakedness, Death, and the Number Zero) delivers a thoughtful and gripping memoir of life with his son, Isaac, who takes time off from his undergraduate studies in computer science to pursue a living as a player in the high stakes world of professional poker playing. Beginning in Las Vegas, where Isaac is in the finals of the World Poker Tour, and ending with Isaac's marriage to his longtime girlfriend, Haxton weaves the events leading to his son's poker winnings with heartfelt accounts of various earlier times, including Isaac's youth and his early infatuation. Haxton nicely touches on the mathematics and psychology of poker playing. While recognizing at all times that playing poker in many ways 'can be a difficult way of life,' his gift for the poetic and lyrical shines, as he presents highly sympathetic descriptions of the denizens of casinos around the world where the various tournaments he describes are located." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Praise for Fading Hearts on the River:
[It wont] show you how to draw that one card you need to fill an inside straight. But [it] uses poker to expand our sense of how human beings work
. Haxton is prone to big-hearted musings.” New York Times Book Review
"... another ambitious work of nonfiction that seeks to use poker as a window into matters of history and philosophy" The Rumpus
"He puts his poetry skills to excellent use, spinning out language that is often beautiful and evocative. The book is not just about his sons competitive gambling career; its also a poetic memorial to the poignant moments in his life, his son's life and their shared life." Kirkus
Haxton delivers a thoughtful and gripping memoir
Haxton weaves the events leading to his sons poker winnings with heartfelt accounts of various earlier times
Haxton nicely touches on the mathematics and psychology of poker playing
. [H}is gift for the poetic and lyrical shines, as he presents highly sympathetic descriptions of the denizens of casinos around the world where the various tournaments he describes are located.” Publishers Weekly
"... this tale is not just for gamblers. It is for anyone who likes to think about 'how to make luck happen'." Booklist
I was knocked out by the narrative power and polymath brilliance, the elliptical beauty and elegance of thought inside a story with great momentum. It's a book about child rearing, money in absentia and in abundance, poker, the nature of chance, the psychology of deception ... I can see this being a cult hit.” Mary Karr
"Loved the book--gave a sad groan when I saw I was out of pages--hugely compelling, kind, witty--an utterly charming and frank voice." - George Saunders
About the Author
has published six collections of poems from Knopf. His poems and prose have appeared in Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Book Review, the New Yorker,
and the Paris Review.
He is the 2013 recipient of the Fellowship of Southern Writers Hanes Award, recognizing a distinguished body of work by a poet in mid-career. He lives with his wife and children in Syracuse and teaches at Syracuse University.