Only if you’ve been living away in a manger could you possibly have failed to notice this best-seller, by the author of ‘One, Two, Many commas’. That short volume, on punctuation, of all things, was a delight to read; I learned how to use the semi-colon from it, kinda.
And so I was primed when I heard that “Fifty Sheds of Neigh”, also by Dewey Pferde, had taken win, place, and show on the NYT Book Review list. And, I was intrigued by the mixed reviews it got; Deborah Friedman slammed it, calling the book ‘…50 grades of hay for a Horse with no Name!’, whatever that’s supposed to imply. Reviewers, you know. But now that I’ve dragged my carcass through all 634 pages I kinda have to agree with her. Yeah, ‘one two many horses’, in fact 49, mebbe 50 too many.
The story opens by describing E.Questrian Grue, a filthy-rich pretentious heir and refrigerator magnate who has purchased a long rectangular gentleman’s horse-farm out along Highway 51, and soon builds separate quarters for each of his filly flings, aquired one at a time. Being used to having his way, he initially specifies ‘hearse-racing’ as the business description, thus avoiding the bothersome intrusion of Dep’t of Agriculture inspectors. At a local watering hole one night, where he is schmoozing the town’s zoning officer, he overhears talk of a drop-dead gorgeous filly, and buys her on the spot, sight-unseen, and decidedly drunk.
And so into this unstable stable trots ‘Miss Anesthesia’, a lithe two-year old filly with three
wins already at Pimlico under her saddle and a summer place at Hialeah. They meet cute, of course, and have sex until morning in a chapter-long episode which had the book banned in Florida for a spell. (they called the pair ‘promiscuous.)
On awakening, Grue changes Anasthesia’s name, calling it ‘lacking feeling’, to an unpronounceable word, the name for the Great Auk in Maori. The stable-hands soon call her ‘Miss Auk-word’, which leads to some tense moments.
By this time he’s had 50 sheds erected. Miss Auk insists on being housed in the one nearest to Questy’s heart. This necessitates moving each of the other horses one building down the line, an effort which consumes another perhaps 129 pages, sort of an ‘Arabian Nights’ aside, with vignettes of horses vying for the right to stay where they were, at the expense of their
And so on. And so on. And so damned on. They fight, they make up, they make out, another name make-over: (Missy Auk demands and wins the right to be called ‘The Horse formerly known as Anesthesia.’ This after ‘Black Beauty’ was a no-go since she is a roan, and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, while clever and referential, has lethargic connotations in racing circles.
Ok, you probably want to know whether to buy the book. Or download it, after I’ve kindled your curiosity.
Well, you can’t. It doesn’t exist. I made it all up and I’m sorry. Probably a little fuzzy kitten getting run over by a dump-truck right now, as we speak, and it’s all my fault. But you guessed that. Plus I hated it anyway. Nothing racy-harnessy here, folks. Moby Dick was hotter.