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The Sport of Kings: A Novel (Paperback)
May 2016 Indie Next List
“Horse racing and breeding, evolution, race, love, family dynamics, and America's historical past are a few of the subjects and issues that Morgan bravely, confidently, and intelligently explores with a poetic and lyrical sensibility. The result is a gorgeous and engaging novel that is sobering, important, and unforgettable. In addition to her singular vision and style, Morgan combines some of the intense power of the landscape-as-mindscape of Thomas Wolfe, the dramaturgy and myth-mining of Eugene O'Neill, the deep focus and rigor of Richard Powers, the transcendent beauty of Vollmann's best prose, and the strong spiritual commitment of Marilynne Robinson. The Sport of Kings unfolds dramatically into an exquisite work of classic American literature.”
— Ed Conklin (M), Chaucer's Books, Santa Barbara, CA
A Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
Winner of the Kirkus Prize for Fiction • A Recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction • A Finalist for the James Tait Black Prize for Fiction • A Finalist for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction • A Finalist for the Rathbones Folio Prize • Longlisted for an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence • One of New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Book
Named a Best Book of the Year by Entertainment Weekly • GQ • The New York Times (Selected by Dwight Garner) • NPR • The Wall Street Journal • San Francisco Chronicle • Refinery29 • Booklist • Kirkus Reviews • Commonweal Magazine
"In its poetic splendor and moral seriousness, The Sport of Kings bears the traces of Faulkner, Morrison, and McCarthy. . . . It is a contemporary masterpiece."—San Francisco Chronicle
Hailed by The New Yorker for its “remarkable achievements,” The Sport of Kings is an American tale centered on a horse and two families: one white, a Southern dynasty whose forefathers were among the founders of Kentucky; the other African-American, the descendants of their slaves.
It is a dauntless narrative that stretches from the fields of the Virginia piedmont to the abundant pastures of the Bluegrass, and across the dark waters of the Ohio River; from the final shots of the Revolutionary War to the resounding clang of the starting bell at Churchill Downs. As C. E. Morgan unspools a fabric of shared histories, past and present converge in a Thoroughbred named Hellsmouth, heir to Secretariat and a contender for the Triple Crown. Newly confronted with one another in the quest for victory, the two families must face the consequences of their ambitions, as each is driven---and haunted---by the same, enduring question: How far away from your father can you run?
A sweeping narrative of wealth and poverty, racism and rage, The Sport of Kings is an unflinching portrait of lives cast in the shadow of slavery and a moral epic for our time.
About the Author
C.E. Morgan studied English and voice at Berea College and holds a master’s in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School. She is the author of All the Living and lives in Kentucky.
"C.E. Morgan’s The Sport of Kings takes the kind of dauntless, breathtaking chances readers once routinely expected from the boldest of American novels. . . . It is a profoundly orchestrated work that is both timeless and up-to-the-minute in its concerns, the most notable of which is what another Kentucky-bred novelist, Robert Penn Warren, once labeled 'the awful responsibility of time.'"—Judges' panel for the Kirkus Prize for Fiction
"One of this year's best novels."—The Boston Globe
"C.E. Morgan has more nerve, linguistic vitality, and commitment to cosmic thoroughness in one joint of her little finger than the next hundred contemporary novelists have in their entire bodies and vocabularies."—The New York Times Book Review
"C.E. Morgan tackles destiny, race, love, and family with such thought-provoking, stunning prose that even at its most disturbing, it’s beautiful to read. This book is destined to be an American classic. I haven’t read anything this powerful, moving, and jaw-dropping in many years."—The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Ravishing and ambitious . . . [A] serious and important novel."—The New York Times
"[A]sprawling, magisterial Southern Gothic for the twenty-first century."—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Majestic and sorrowful . . . With this extraordinary work, C.E. Morgan moves into the front rank of contemporary writers.”—Newsday
"Everyone thinks [The Sport of Kings] is about horse racing, when it’s really about everything: love, race, legacy, family, justice, poverty, and American inequality. On top of that, it’s one of the most gorgeous books I’ve read in many years. When I finished the book, I immediately called a friend and said 'this book is precisely why I do the work I do.'"—Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, for The Millions (A Year in Reading)
"A world-encompassing colossus of a second novel . . . Constantly invigorating,surprising, and transfixing."—The Times Literary Supplement
"[A]sweeping, ambitious novel . . . Spectacularly well-written."—The Wall Street Journal
"Remarkable achievements . . . The Sport of Kings hovers between fiction, history, and myth, its characters sometimes like the ancient ones bound to their tales by fate, its horses distant kin to those who drew the chariot of time across the sky . . . Novelists can do things that other writers can’t—and Morgan can do things that other novelists can’t . . . Tremendous, the work of a writer just starting to show us what she can do."—The New Yorker
"Vivid epic of rage and racism on a Kentucky stud farm exposes the myth of the American dream."—The Spectator (UK)
"Spirited, fast and almost perfectly formed."—The Times (UK)
"With The Sport of Kings, C. E. Morgan has delivered a masterpiece. Rich, deep, and ambitious, this book is, by any standard, a Great American Novel."—Philipp Meyer, author of The Son
"[The Sport of Kings] is an epic novel steeped in American history and geography . . . Morgan’s gothic tale of Southern decadence deepens into a searing investigation of racism’s enduring legacy . . . Vaultingly ambitious, thrillingly well-written, charged with moral fervor and rueful compassion. How will this dazzling writer astonish us next time?"—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Morgan has dared to write the kind of book that was presumed long extinct: a high literary epic of America."—The Telegraph (UK)
"Sport of Kings boasts a plot that maintains tension and pace, and Morgan weaves its characters, its themes, its several histories together in a marvelous display of literary control and follow-through."—Christian Science Monitor
"[A] rich and compulsive new novel . . . This book confirms [Morgan] as the new torchbearer of the Southern Gothic tradition. . . . What emerges is a panoramic view of race relations in America, from the slow crumbling of the Jim Crow laws until shortly before the election of Barack Obama, with occasional glimpses into the more distant past. Racing provides the novel’s overarching metaphor for race (a set of tracks that determine the course of a life, and for which the correct breeding is essential), and Morgan’s white characters are hardly less constricted by history than her black ones. . . . It’s a bleak and bitter inversion of the American dream — a world in which circumstances are impossible to change, and legacies impossible to shake."—The Financial Times