Sunday, Mar. 3, 2024

Bookshelf — 12/07/07

TAKE A GOOD LOOK AROUND
James C. Wofford
Hamilton Books, 4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706.
212 pp. 2007. Photos and illustrations. $25.00.
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TAKE A GOOD LOOK AROUND
James C. Wofford
Hamilton Books, 4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706.
212 pp. 2007. Photos and illustrations. $25.00.

“When one of my rowdy friends gets over-cocktailed,” explained eventing coach and former international competitor Jimmy Wofford in the forward of his latest work, Take A Good Look Around, “his wife will typically drag him out of the party by his ear, telling him ‘Take a good look around, big boy!’ Meaning that he most likely won’t be invited back, so he should remember it as it was at the time. I have always been aware that we might not see something, or experience something for a second time, hence the title.

“My attitude is that if it did not really happen the way I tell it, it should have,” he continued. “I’m not testifying under oath here. Remember the guy who worked in the Clinton White House who testified that he lied to his diary? Think of it that way.”

Given such a preamble, it’s no surprise that this book doesn’t fall into the same category as the Olympic medalist’s several other training manuals. Instead, it serves up a stiff shot of what Bill Steinkraus refers to in his preface as “pure 100-proof unadulterated Wofford,” as the author chronicles his many madcap misadventures across the globe.

Wofford’s joie de vivre leaps off the pages as he recounts tales of fishing, hunting and horses from Alaska to Australia and everywhere in between. Whether in the bayous of Louisiana or the countryside of Ireland, every vignette has two things in common: the consumption of some measure of “all-purpose brown” typically plays a part at some point, and the roguish sense of humor with which each story is told only increases from one to the next.

Sportsmen (and women) of any kind will be sure to enjoy Wofford’s tales of being chased by various forms of wildlife (it would seem after reading this book that he’s had more than his fair share of lessons on his place in the food chain), and horsemen will undoubtedly relish the rest.

The “mostly horses” section includes several of the author’s blogs from international competitions throughout the past decade as he worked as an NBC commentator around the globe.

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At the 2006 World Equestrian Games (Germany), Wofford describes coming back to the hotel to find his decidedly “non-horsey” NBC colleagues “sitting in the living room, drinking local German beer, and watching the Kur finals live on Eurosport. Not only were they hooked on horses, but they were picking on the judges, whining about horses being irregular in the passage, and generally sounding like a bunch of dyed-in-the-wool horse fans.”

A true horse lover can’t help but smile.

Take A Good Look Around certainly succeeds in eliciting those smiles, as well as plenty of snorts, grunts and other indefinable laughter-like noises. But it’s also tempered with a handful of more austere pieces here and there, which add more depth and balance to the collection.

It’s an absolute must-read, and proof that Wofford not only has a way with horses, but a way with words as well.

Kat Netzler



THE HORSE GOD BUILT—The Untold Story Of Secretariat, The World’s Greatest Racehorse
Lawrence Scanlan
Thomas Dunne Books, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
335 pp. Photographs. $24.95.

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Few books fall into the category of “effortless reads,” but The Horse God Built—The Untold Story Of Secretariat, The World’s Greatest Racehorse could easily be classified as such.

Author Lawrence Scanlan, whose previous works include The Man Who Listens To Horses with Monty Roberts, has penned a new biography of the famous red runner that race enthusiasts, history buffs and horse lovers alike will be certain to enjoy.

After witnessing the unveiling of a new Secretariat memorial statue at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2004, the author embarks on a fact-finding mission of the broadest proportions to investigate the rarely discussed relationship between the famous horse and his fiercely loyal long-time groom, Eddie Sweat.

The sentimentality of the author is occasionally too overt, but it makes for an enticing read nonetheless. Scanlan also utilizes the work of writers before him, like ’70s sportswriter Bill Nack, who gave firsthand accounts of the horse’s seemingly magical powers.

Sweat died long before Scanlan formed the idea for the book, rendering him unavailable for the kind of interviews we’d ideally like to see in any in-depth biography. But the author has seemingly talked with everybody who was anybody in Secretariat’s sphere, and he can’t be blamed for his apparent inability to edit down the massive collection of narratives he’s amassed. It will be an easily forgivable sin for most readers.

Kat Netzler

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