Monday, May 08, 2006

Man o' War

I have been in love with Man o' War since I was about thirteen and read Walter Farley's book about the great horse. My parents took me to Lexington, KY and let me stand at his statue and grave and cry. So, I was really looking forward to Dorothy Ours' book, Man o' War. I was disappointed. The excitement of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit wasn't in this book. I know it would be possible to make Man o' War's life exciting because he was named the greatest American racehorse of the 20th century. Walter Farley made it work. Dorothy Ours doesn't. Now, my next complaint might be changed by the actual book since I read an Advanced Reading Copy. But, there was no listing of his progeny in the back of the book. Knowing that War Admiral, Seabiscuit and so many others were descendents of Man o' War, I was expecting to see that list. That disappointed me, and so did the book.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Lesa -

Sorry you were disappointed. There are numerous revisions in the actual book, compared with the Advanced Readers copy, plus 40 photos (some quite rare). I didn't try to list Man o' War's progeny, though, because this book centers on his racing career and other books already deal with his influence as a stud.

Re: the excitement, I know from a wide range of people giving feedback that different people will react differently. One who owns a Man o' War descendent (dressage horse) was delighted -- said she learned so much about her own horse's complex behavior, through these descriptions of Man o' War. In any case,the book never aimed to be "Seabiscuit." No underdog story, to start with. ;> I think several of Red's races still come across as pretty darn exciting, though (the Dwyer and Potomac Handicap being two of my favorites).

Instead, the goal was to strip away the many layers of myth that built up around Man o' War, show from contemporary sources how he developed into such a great horse and what the racing world was like during his time. So what you get is a very "clean" Man o' War, plus new information about the one race he lost (a fix, or accidental?) and new info about a surprising reason why Johnny Loftus may have lost his jockey license.

Whatever you end up thinking of this book, I'm glad you're a Man o' War fan. Keep the faith! :>


Anonymous said...

I finished the book at 2:00 a.m this morning with tears in my eyes, including all the footnotes and credits. I ironically found this blog while looking for a list of Man o'War's progeny but I am looking forward to the quest of following up on finding more information on him, his progeny, and other great racehorses.
Dorothy - your book ignited my imagination and rejuvenated my long dormant love of horses. What a great gift! Thank you. I am a writer for a living (technical legal writing and research) and I thought it was exceptionally well-written and obviously carefully and thoroughly researched. To me, the book captures the spirit and personality of this magnificent and legendary animal against the backdrop of the reality of the horseracing industry in the early 20th century. What a timely topic with Barbaro's catastrophic injury raising issues about the state of the industry today. A great book, equal to its subject - I highly recommend it.

Lesa said...

I'm sure that the ARC didn't do this book justice, and I would have loved to have seen the pictures.

I'm glad Anne found her way to the book via the blog, and I'm really glad Dorothy made her comments here in response to my review. Thanks to both of you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Lesa, for creating this site and enticing the author here to express her viewpoint, as well giving me the opportunity to rave about the book while still on a "high" from my own experience of reading it and anxious to share my enthusiasm.

Lcolcord said...

I was working at the Reference Desk one day and I started thinking about Ruffian. Remember her? She was a great filly, who, in a match race with Foolish Pleasure, broke down and had to be put down. I was looking around on the Internet for information about her, sobbing my eyes out! We need a good book (like this one, and Seabiscuit) about her!