1. "Gleefully mad, wonderfully obscene…"


    Spotted at Alley Cat Books in San Francisco: this (very accurate) staff recommendation for Raymond Kennedy’s Ride a Cockhorse.

    This book rules in terms of wild categorizations. It’s been called “the sexiest book about banking/funniest book about banking,” the novel that “predicted Sarah Palin,”and a book that inspires “shocked glee," among many other things.

“Sentiment has its place in bed, not on the dotted line of a home mortgage.”

Come meet your favorite loan officer cum tyrant cum femme fatale, Frankie Fitzgibbons, in person next week at the Irish Rep. This event was rescheduled due to hurricane Sandy, but not even the storm of the century can stop the free market.

“It’s important that I look my dramatic best,” she explained, “Especially my eyes. Fix them up a little scary.”

    “Sentiment has its place in bed, not on the dotted line of a home mortgage.”

    Come meet your favorite loan officer cum tyrant cum femme fatale, Frankie Fitzgibbons, in person next week at the Irish Rep. This event was rescheduled due to hurricane Sandy, but not even the storm of the century can stop the free market.

    “It’s important that I look my dramatic best,” she explained, “Especially my eyes. Fix them up a little scary.”

  3. "Sexiest Book About Banking/Funniest Book About Banking"

    Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, tells us, ‘This hilarious novel was reissued this spring by the fine folks at the New York Review of Books Classics. The story goes something like this: a low-level bank employee has an affair with a high school drum major and is infused with such confidence that she takes over the entire bank. No one is safe—not the hairdresser she drafts as her consigliare, not her bosses, not her son-in-law. It’s a wild, wild ride, the sort of book that leaves you gasping with surprise on the subway.’

    The Atlantic Wire did the inescapable “Best Books of 2012" list and included Raymond Kennedy’s Ride a Cockhorse under it’s “Sexiest Book About Banking/Funniest Book About Banking” header. Which is a pretty good way to describe the book. You’ll look at your local bank employees a bit differently after reading this book.

  4. Off On a Tangent: Favorite Books Published Earlier Than 2012 →


    I’m a little alarmed that I’ve signed up for at least three different “Best of” Lists for various places that pay me. They’ll be fun to compile but I admit this list, of books I adored that were published in years past (recent or not-so-recent) will be my sentimental favorite of the bunch.

    - The entire backlist of Dorothy B. Hughes, but in particular, THE EXPENDABLE MAN (1963), reissued by NYRB Classics this summer; RIDE THE PINK HORSE (1946); and DREAD JOURNEY (1945), ostensibly about a cross-country train trip where someone will die before the last stop but really a lacerating examination of Hollywood mores of the time. Way more on Hughes in the essay I wrote for the LA Review of Books in August.

    - Thomas Tryon, THE OTHER (1970). Before he turned to novels, Tryon was a promising actor whose career was essentially derailed by noted asshole Otto Preminger’s relentless abuse on set. Tryon quit Hollywood and found his real voice with this, his first novel, about 13-year-old twin boys who are polar opposites: Niles the eager-to-please one, Holland the simmering, surly one. The great thing about THE OTHER is that you’re free to interpret events any way you like, and it’s totally okay. Tryon leaves things that open.

    Raymond Kennedy, RIDE A COCKHORSE (1991) — Another NYRB Classics reissue. My god, what a monster Frankie is! Her transformation sudden, unexplained, but then she takes what she wants (like the high school bandmember in the opening chapter, then leadership of the bank where before she was a mere mousy teller) and it seems great until it isn’t. But what a ride. Shocked glee is the best way to describe reading this book.

    Elizabeth Taylor, ANGEL and A GAME OF HIDE AND SEEK — based on these two books, the first about a young woman determined to be a successful writer (and though she achieves this, it’s also her undoing), the other about the way a brief, aborted love affair hangs over lives for decades afterwards, I clearly need to read more of her books.

    Okay, so we modify the post a bit. But out of the ten “Favorite Book Published Earlier Than 2012” chosen by Sarah Weinman on her blog Off On a Tangent, four of them were our titles. And that’s as it should be.

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  6. Ride a Cockhorse reviewed in The Guardian

    In Ride a Cockhorse, whose title appears less arbitrary the further one goes into the book, Mrs Fitzgibbons actually attempts to rape a man, and the scene is both horrific and comic – as one may indeed compare it with the sex scene with the drum major. For a while I thought that this book, obviously good though it is, had a major problem, in that it suggested that there is something nightmarish, or Against Nature, about a femme d’un certain age on the make, both sexually and professionally. But I think that if Kennedy is going to populate his novels with women who don’t act like they oughter, then this means he finds the phenomenon not only almost obsessively fascinating but imaginatively rich. He’s not being misogynistic.

    —from a Nicholas Lezard review of Ride a Cockhorse in The Guardian. Lezard is picking up on theme that others have brought up, whether this book, with its sexual predator protagonist and her middle aged transformation into small town Sarah Palinesque banking tyrant, is or isn’t misogynistic. We tend to agree with Lezard that it isn’t (surprised?), but whatever your opinion Frankie Fitzgibbons is a character that will stay with you well after finishing this hilarious and still pertinent book.

  7. Meet Frankie Fitzgibbons

        ’This is your living example of the very things I’ve been talking about.’ She vilified the De Maria brother in a harsh voice. ‘This is just the sort of oily, mealymouthed parasite—this reptile,’ she went on, ‘the yellow little reptile—who comes sneaking out of his hole at the first sign of a crumb on the floor. He can’t dress himself. He can’t add up a column of figures. He has a vocabulary of about four hundred words. But when no on is looking, this little Latin bag of tricks will walk off with your silverware, your umbrella, your tables and chairs, and your life savings!’
         As Mrs. Fitzgibbons lashed away at her ex-employee, she maintained a rigid posture and a very drained expression. The restaurant had fallen silent on all sides, especially as the target of Mrs. Fitzgibbon’s wrath stood transfixed in horror before her. Laurence De Maria’s fear passed description. He couldn’t move.

    —meet Frankie Fitzgibbons, the protagonist of Raymond Kennedy’s Ride a Cockhorse, who mysteriously emerges from her mundane life as a widowed home-loan officer in a small-town Massachussetts bank to become the domineering, conniving, high-school drum major-seducing terror of the town. Here she is berating Laurence De Maria, a former popular teller at her bank who she fired as her first action as the new C.E.O. De Maria gets his revenge after the meal, attacking her in the parking lot with a two-by-four, but only succeeds in hitting her beautician and getting arrested. Mrs. Fitzgibbons shows little evidence of mercy, but does see the incident as an important lesson on the pitfalls of power, and a reason to be extremely paranoid.

  8. “If you’re any kind of Palin-watcher (and aren’t we all?) you will not have failed to pick up the futuristic resonances of Ride a Cockhorse. A small town revolutionized, a good-ol’-boys network dismantled … A triumphantly attractive woman crushing the opposition … A pell-mell accession to power, an enthralled media, a number of aggrieved victims … ‘Bureaucratic procedures were replaced by flashes of intuition,’ writes Kennedy of Mrs Fitzgibbons at the Parish Bank, exactly describing Palin’s gutsy, freestyle approach to governance, her magnificent impatience with process.”

    — Raymond Kennedy’s Ride a Cockhorse, “The 1991 Novel that Predicted Sarah Palin”
    Review by James Parker

  9. Publication Day for Ride a Cockhorse

    All impulse control is gone. Soon she [the protagonist Frankie Fitzgibbons] is cruising the town at night in her dented Honda, stalking the drum major and eventually—triumphantly—seducing him. Her dress sense sharpens, and she goes in for a sleeker, more glamorous style in clothes and makeup; before long she is the image of the ruthless capitalist, 1980s-style. She assumes a hectoring tone with the hapless ‘welshers,’ as she describes them, who are late with their mortgage payments. ‘Whom do you think you’re dealing with?  Your local grocer?  We’re your bank!’ she roars over the phone to one lady who’s been trying to soft-soap her. ‘We’re not talking about your snowblower or your refrigerator. We’re talking about your house. If you can’t show me good faith, I’ll turn it over to Maloney and Halpern for foreclosure proceedings.’ 

    It’s the day you’ve all be waiting for, Raymond Kennedy’s Ride a Cockhorse is finally out. We wanted to share some funny lines from the book, but there were too many to choose from and without context the humor doesn’t really work. So instead we’ve taken the above paragraph from today’s review by Brooke Allen in the B&N Review. However, we did want to make a couple points about this book: 1. It’s absolutely hilarious, 2. It’s about banking, small-town New England banking no less, and still hilarious, and 3. The title comes from the famous English nursery rhyme “Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross”, but if you sniggered when you read it, don’t worry you won’t be disappointed—Tristram Shandy’s got nothing on Frankie Fitzgibbons.

  10. “Looking back, Mrs. Fitzgibbons could not recall which of the major changes in her life had come about first, the discovery that she possessed a gift for persuasive speech, or the sudden quickening of her libido.”

    — Thanks to the San Francisco Gate for reminding us of the great opening line to Raymond Kennedy’s Ride a Cockhorse.

    (Source: sfgate.com)