Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Art of Losing
I'm on a bit of a horse racing reading kick right now and it started with this book. i was fooling around with the "card catalog" at work and decided to look for novels with the subject of gambling. In addition to 3,423 books by Dick Francis, this one came up. I requested it from one of the other branches and plowed through it.
The Art of Losing is a very dark book. One of the darker ones I've read. The main character, Michael Jacobs, is a documentary filmmaker who makes decent films but they do not generate enough interest to be profitable. This shouldn't really matter since Jacobs comes from a wealthy family who are encouraging of his occupational choice and who like his movies. Nonetheless, Jacobs cannot bring himself to rely on assistance from his folks.
Jacobs' friend and producer, Sebby Laslo, has a problem with gambling. He has indebted himself too much with the wrong kinds of people and comes to Mike with a broken thumb and a pitch for how to get them both on track.
Sebby has a friend who is a jockey. The plan is to get another jockey involved and have the two jockeys conspire to fix a race on which Sebby and Jacobs have wagered heavily. In order to do this, though, and get the kind of odds they want, they have to place the wager with an illegal bookmaker. In order to get a bookmaker (or more bookmakers) to give them odds on a big bet like that, they have to establish that they are chumps and have to lose money in advance; money neither of them has.
If this doesn't bode well to you in my review, well, that foreboding feeling isn't go away if you read the book either. Dixon does not create an inspiring atmosphere. You have a sense that those best laid plans are certainly going to go awry.
Even with the bad vibe, the book moves you along. There is a glimmer of hope....maybe...or maybe it's the sense that you're about to view a train wreck. Something keeps you moving ahead with the book. And it's good. Surprisingly good given that I picked it solely based on a card catalog subject heading. Just don't go reading it on a day where you could use some optimism.