They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
During the Depression, Gloria and Robert enter a dance marathon in return for three square meals a day and a chance at winning the big-money prize. Under the intense scrutiny of the media, corporate sponsors and obsessive fans, the competing couples are put through a series of gruelling and humiliating feats of endurance, until they begin to fight among themselves and betray each other. As days and weeks go by, the tension reaches boiling point, and this pitch-black tale of desire and desperation heads towards a violent conclusion.
Sordid, pathetic, senselessly exciting ... has the immediacy and the significance of a nerve-shattering explosion * New Republic * Were it not in its physical details so carefully documented, it would be lurid beyond itself * Nation * Language is not minced in this short novel which presents life in its most brutal aspect * Saturday Review of Literature * The first existentialist novel to have appeared in America -- Simone de Beauvoir A brilliant, bitter, wonderful portrait of mother and daughter, artist and lover * Kirkus * Horace McCoy shoots words like bullets * Time * A spare, bleak parable about American life, which McCoy pictured as a Los Angeles dance marathon in the early thirties ... full of the kind of apocalyptic detail that both he and Nathanael West saw in life as lived on the Hollywood fringe * New York Times * Captures the survivalist barbarity in this bizarre convention, and becomes a metaphor for life itself: the last couple on their feet gets the prize * Independent * I was moved, then shaken by the beauty and genius of Horace McCoy's metaphor * Village Voice * It's the unanswerable nature of the whydunnit that ensures the book's durability * booklit.com * Takes the reader into one of America's darkest corners ... The story has resonance for contemporary America and the current craze for reality television. How far are we from staging a dance marathon for television? * readywhenyouarecb.com * This almost sadistically frank pulp fiction from 1935 will cure anyone of the delusion that earlier generations didn't know the score. With murder, incest, abortion, and the like generously added to a plot about people entertaining themselves by watching the misery of others, it's like one of these eliminationist "reality" television shows (Survivor, Big Brother, etc.) as conceived by the creative team of Thomas Hobbes and Charles Darwin. These lives are indeed nasty, brutish, and short. It doesn't make for a pretty story, but you have to admire the zeal and energy with which Horace McCoy drives his point home * Brothersjudd.com * A sharply-honed novella... Brilliant -- Val Hennessy * Daily Mail * A classic novel about hardscrabble survival in 1930s Depression-era America * The Times * America's first existential novel * Evening Standard * And finally, showing the modern writers how it's done... the 1930s existentialist noir classic... it's a breathtaking piece of storytelling that is still thrillingly relevant today. -- Doug Johnstone * Big Issue * Forget Raymond Chandler and his overrated ilk - Horace McCoy's 1935 novel is the best example of American noir ever written... it is an extraordinary achievement and every bit as shocking and moving today as it must have been for its original readers. Gripping from the beginning - when we are given to understand that the narrator is being condemned to death for an unknown crime - it's the story of two losers stumbling endlessly round a grotty Hollywood ballroom in a grotesque and ultimately futile struggle for survival. The characters are both more, and less, than human, the writing is tersely perfect, and the ending almost unbearably moving. -- Laura Wilson * Guardian * The brutality of the story is offset by the poetic beauty and precision of the narrative... In our world of fleeting reality TV stardom, this stark, urgent novel feels more timely than ever. -- Anita Sethi * Observer * A typographically innovative drama... A heartbreaking existentialist fable about a gruelling marathon dance contest... the tale assumes the weight of Greek tragedy... a masterpiece. -- Christopher Fowler * Independent on Sunday *
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