This week, I'm reading Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son by John Jeremiah Sullivan.
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.
It was in the month of May, three years ago, by a hospital bed in Columbus, Ohio, where my father was recovering from what was supposed to have been a quintuple bypass operation but became, on the surgeon's actual seeing the heart, a sextuple. His face, my father's face, was pale. He was thinner than I had seen him in years. A stuffed bear that the nurses had loaned him lay crooked in his lap; they told him to hug it whenever he stood or sat down, to keep the stitches in his chest from tearing. I complimented him on the bear when I walked in, and he gave me one of those looks, dropping his jaw and crossing his eyes as he rolled them back in their sockets. It was a look he assumed in all kinds of situations but that always meant the same thing: Can you believe this?
What has surprised me most, at the sale, has been realizing that the cultish emphasis placed on pedigree by many bettors and most racing journalist is shared, to an overwhelming extent, by the trainers themselves. Studies of the heritability factors involved in speed and endurance (or of the frequency, in plain English, with which these traits recur in offspring) find them "modest," and the argument has been made that even these figures can be largely accounted for by nurture, not nature.
Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: Grab your current readOpen to a random pageShare two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! To see what others are sharing on the Teaser Tuesdays, check the comments at: http://adailyrhythm.com/
Share the first paragraph (or a few) from a book you are reading. Here's the link: Bibliophile By The Sea