Don’t you just love it when a book leaps out of nowhere and declares itself a winner? When the sheer energy and verve of a story captures readers’ hearts and minds and gives them a joyous run for their money? Well that’s the delightfully improbable story behind The Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, which leaped from dark horse to the winner’s circle by snaring the National Book Award. Jaimy was so not expecting to walk away with the award that she pulled an old dress out of her closet for the ceremony and didn’t prepare an acceptance speech. Maybe that’s the key to winning — you just don’t expect to.
Well whatever it takes, Jaimy had the goods and grabbed the gold ring. She’s on the generous side of 60 and has been writing for decades, mostly on the fringes of the literary world. She lives far from the New York publishing vortex in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she teaches writing and drinks schnapps to keep warm on cold winter evenings.
The Lord of Misrule was published by a friend, Bruce McPherson, the founder and only full-time employee of a press the size of a postage stamp. But together, they beat the big guns and produced a book that people are raving about and I can’t wait to read. My local bookstore, Watchung Booksellers, had a glowing review posted recently and it caught my eye even before the big kahuna award was announced.
It’s so wonderful when a book just explodes into consciousness, not because of huge ads and lots of hype, but because of a great story, endearing characters, and wonderful writing. The Lord of Misrule is about horse racing, but I guess it’s also about life and failure and losing and love — because those are the things that matter and the things that people really want to ponder and penetrate. Jaimy’s success story makes me think of the fabulous Frank McCourt, who penned Angela’s Ashes at 65 (see Masterful Hands). It also gives me hope. If they can do it, hey, so can we! Do you feel the same way?