Bill Barich opens with a painfully personal disclosure His mother has been diagnosed with cancer Overwhelmed by his powerlessness, he is suddenly vulnerable to the destructiveness change inevitably leaves in its wake The random illnesses of other family members, the environmental destruction caused by land developers, the loss of the streams and fishing spots of his youth, incremental shifts in culture and values He quits his job and moves to the country only to have his marriage falter Sleep brings nightmares rather than respite.Desperate to restore structure to his disintegrating world, he flees to a 3rd tier racetrack outside of Oakland It s a choice suggested by the family s diversion during his mother s illness Amateurs, they place small bets on the horses, choosing them randomly an appealing name, a mostly faulty intuition, or just whim It s touching to hear him describe his mother on these occasions She would lean forward in her chair, her big reading glasses dwarfing her eyes, making them look childlike, and act excited if her horse were in contention p.4 Is it the adrenaline, or the simple act of being together that momentarily banishes the malaise He retreats to a nondescript motel, The Terrace It s a re enactment of an earlier flight in his youth, from academic study to the romance of the Italian Renaissance by way of a year in Italy Now, past and present converge in his mind, and his impressions of the track are shaped by the lessons of that historical Firenze For him, the present with all its chaos parallels the dark agesI hated nights at The Terrace All the television sets came on, seemingly in unison, and the sound of them was unavoidable and rose around me like granite I felt imprisoned in an aspect of the Middle Ages, some dark and barbarous time The TV s spoke of cultural decay, of flattened perceptions and a cathodal substratum too insubstantial to support human life Throughout the state, the spirit was being stripped of its tools for enrichment Schools, libraries, and museums were closing, and citizens everywhere were retreating into the feudal dimensions of artificial lightp.9 The track s history mirrors any number of historical declines Once, it was a first rate park hosting Calumet Farm s equine royalty Silky Sullivan the beloved west coast bred champion raced here, as well Now, in 1978, it s a hard luck track on the brink of even harder times as attendance continues to decline What does Barich find in these unpromising environs He immerses himself in the study of the Daily Record, seeking to fashion a new, reliable, structure He hangs with trainers, grooms, jockeys, agents and bettors both in the backstretch and in the Home Stretch Bar, relishing the quasi familiarity that seems to have been replaced today by the pallid substitute of online friendships He comes to understand that the intricate conjured patterns built out of the Daily Record are much less satisfying than the emotional stirring of superstition, and human interaction, and hunches It follows that a horse named Little Shasta a name that reminds him of a favorite fishing spot is, contrary to all the numbers, a winner, and that he fails to place the bet, having put his faith in those numbers Likewise, when a filly named Pichi finally breaks her maiden, we are cheering with him for Pichi He s been following her struggles of health and temperament, and listening to the practical wisdom of her trainer, Gary Headley and her groom, Bo Twinn It doesn t matter that this is the one time he has not bet on Pichi Reality is the richness of existence We smell the horses, and hear the grooms mucking out stalls In such moments, his imagination soarsI respected grooms like Bo, perhaps disproportionately They lived the most rigorous and honest lives on the backstretch and seemed to have few illusions than anybody else Their lives had an ascetic quality, functioning within a matrix of basic demands, work, food, rest, sex, a little occasional excitement, and peace of mind Often they were highly principled and uncompromising, which led them to social failure They were suspicious of owners and trainers alikep 107 At the same time, he is not unaware of the darkness Unsound horses are run when they should be rested Management diverts profits that should have gone into keeping the track conditioned and safe Drugs are abused and horses cannot even feel their own unsoundness until it is too late The veterinary staff is there to serve the track, not the horses Even the most gifted of handlers professes a detachment from the being of the horse The sole exception is an assistant trainer named Debbie Thomas who cries for 2 hours when the horse she loves, Bushel Ruler, is claimed by another owner.In the end, however, it is the graceful beauty, and unpredictable feral spirit of the horse that heals BarichThey wouldn t run to form, no matter how you coaxed them, and in a world increasingly controlled and uniform this was exciting When you picked a winner, especially at a price, you were buying back a little of your own wildness, cutting a wound into the smothering fabric of domesticity We were starved, I thought, for contact with an animal other and experienced the lack as a form of sensory deprivation, a diminishment The corporate fiction into which we d fallen denied us our passions, and we were hurting because of itp.218 This is a beautifully written book. Found this book in the 1000 Books to Read Bought to read at the beginning of horse racing meet Beautiful prose, insightful and interesting balance of inside racing and philosophy. A painful start to the novel indeed, a gripping start the author coming to terms with, or accurately attempting to cope with, his mother s recently discovered terminal illness And how he deals with his impending loss a season at a race track is the subject of this 1980 reprinted in 2015 novel Barich has written numerous well acclaimed books and articles perhaps most notably, several New Yorker short stories since Laughing in the Hills was first published Be that as it may, I just finished reading the book for the first time, and I really liked it The book is, in some ways, timeless Laughing in the Hills is much than a novel about horse racing, although Barich clearly knows his subject matter Indeed it s a novel that touches on history, art, philosophy, and the complexities of life in general. This is such an enjoyable series of vignettes I just took my time with it and enjoyed each section Put it down and grabbed it again when the moment struck Brought many thoughts of my father He would have loved this book In my mind, I see him with this and the Form at breakfast in Saratoga A Sunrise, and maybe a coffee before him. Amazed that I m just finding this author and particularly, this book If you aren t hooked in the first paragraph, you might not be human Humanity is the theme of this book about racing and gambling and the track I loved so dearly While Barich s take on the horses sometimes seems tragically dim referring to them numerous times as nags he arrives as some beautiful truths and he meets some colorful characters along the way.I m partial to his style of writing and of course to his setting I savored every page I m already pouring though another of his books about the California landscape. Sometimes the best books are about subjects that don t interest you Picked this up after seeing a passing reference somewhere or other, and it s wonderful lovely and languid and beautifully sad. A darker in tone cousin to the later A Fine Place to Daydream I prefer the latter s lighter touch, which inspired my first trip to Ireland, to see the Gold Cup. It was a little slow at times Probably held my interest than it should have but I realized I know someone in the book. This Wonderful Horse Racing Classic Never Loses Its Luster Or Charm Author Bill Barich Explores Explores The Day To Day Internal World Of Horse Racing From The Backside To The Backstretch This Entertaining Story Of The Lives And Tribulations Of Various Racetrack Personalities Is Sure To Extract Every Human Emotion The Author S Summer Adventure After A Family Tragedy Finds Him Living The Life Many Diehard Racing Enthusiasts Wish They Could Barich S Adventure Discovers Than He Could Ever Imagine About Something Much Bigger Than Racing Life Itself aacchh just lost a lengthy review of this book, and i m too frustrated to rewrite it right now please check back later for , I hope damn this mischievous keyboard
Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the Laughing in the Hills book, this is one of the most wanted Bill Barich author readers around the world.
- 228 pages
- Laughing in the Hills
- Bill Barich
- 24 May 2018 Bill Barich