Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: They Shoot Horses, Don't They? by Horace McCoy

I heard about this book randomly while reading a review of The Hunger Games. Actually, I think the reviewer was referring to the film, but I decided to read the book first. They said The Hunger Games lifted the idea of a fake relationship for the cameras from this story, and that was the first time I had ever heard that, and since it's one of the interesting parts of THG for me, I decided to read the book!

It's really short and also it's about dance marathons. Which made me bump it up immediately because for some reason, the idea of dance marathons are really interesting to me, ever since that weird episode of Point Pleasant! (a show about the devil's daughter that only had 13 episodes. I watched it after the fact, but it taught me about dance marathons! See TV is not 100% evil, it can be educational)

Anyway, just in case you've never heard of them, dance marathons were these events to test human endurance where couples would dance for hours on end with very short breaks, sometimes as long as a month at a time. And they became staged events for entertainment where the people running the events charged admission, etc. So you can kind of see how this ties into The Hunger Games. Also sometimes there would be a big cash prize.

In the book, the main character, Robert, randomly meets this girl Gloria outside of a movie studio. Gloria wants to break into the movie business but she's not having much luck, and Robert wants to be a director, but his ideas are boring, so Gloria convinces him to join the dance marathon with her. And basically the book starts out where you know Robert shot Gloria and you're wondering why, and the answer is very unsatisfactory. But it is hailed as "the first existentialist novel to have appeared in America." so maybe that's why. Anyway....

A lot of the book is about the set-up of the dance marathon and how it's good for the couples to appeal for sponsors and how sometimes the sponsors are weird, and how some people would cheat, and how important it was to the people organizing the marathon to get famous people there and sell tickets and the different ways they would devise to make that happen and how horrible it was for everyone to be dancing nonstop like this. For the most part they stopped dancing and just had to keep moving. It seems terrible! I would not join one. Also, there was no fake love story!!! I think this must be something that's different about the movie and the book. But I was really disappointed! I read the book for the fake love story that never happened. They were approached to hold a fake wedding in order to get more interest in the marathon but they turned it down flat.

Anyway, Gloria is more and more miserable and wondering why she's alive, and wishing she could die, and some people DO die, and overall the book is not that happy. But it's not really depressing either? It's just kind of interesting.

Has anyone seen the movie? I'm thinking I'll have to watch it eventually to satisfy my curiosity, but I'm wondering if you have seen it how it diverges from the there a fake love story? etc.

This was a really fast but interesting read. And I still want more stories about dance marathons, so looking for recs on that front as well!

Rating: 4/5
Source of Book: bought it
Publisher: Serpent's Tail Classics


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