Ride a Cockhorse
by Raymond Kennedy, introduction by Katherine A. Powers
Ride a Cockhorse is the NYRB Classics Book Club selection for June.
A revolution is under way at a once sleepy New England bank. Forty-five-year-old Frances Fitzgibbons has gone from sweet-tempered loan officer to insatiable force of nature almost overnight. Suddenly she’s brazenly seducing the high-school drum major, taking over her boss’s office, firing anyone who crosses her, inspiring populist fervor, and publicly announcing plans to crush her local rivals en route to dominating the entire banking industry in the northeast. The terrifying new order instituted by Frankie and her offbeat goon squad (led by her devoted hairdresser and including her own son-in-law) is an awesome spectacle to behold.
Brimming with snappy dialogue and gleeful obscenity, Ride a Cockhorse is a rollicking cautionary tale of small-town demagoguery that might be seen to prefigure both America’s current financial woes and the rise of Sarah Palin. Frances is in any case a beautiful monster of an antiheroine—resist her at your peril!
Ride a Cockhorse is at once high comedy and a mordant account of the paranoid personality, but this is only part of the elaborate business that Kennedy has undertaken; he has also brought off the improbable if not impossible—a novel about a bank! The best comic novel to come my way in a long time.
—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
Business booms for Mrs. Fitz, but then the hilarious manipulations of the press and her superiors give way to a Fascistic reign of terrors over her inferiors, and Mr. Kennedy has us pinned at precisely the point where the comic turns nasty.
—The New Yorker
Perhaps the funniest American novel since John Kennedy Toole's prize winner, A Confederacy of Dunces.
God knows, it must be hard to write a funny book about New England banking, but Kennedy has done it .... The dialogue is brittle, snappy, and often howlingly funny.... Frankie Fitzgibbons is an inspired creation, a cross between Maggie Thatcher and Darth Vader.
Kennedy is a master storyteller.... The author's vision has to do with a real wisdom of the heart.