Falling from Horses by Molly GlossFalling from Horses by Molly Gloss

Falling from Horses

byMolly Gloss

Paperback | May 5, 2015

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In 1938, nineteen-year-old ranch hand Bud Frazer sets out for Hollywood, his sights set on becoming a stunt rider in the movies-and rubbing shoulders with the great screen cowboys of his youth. On the long bus ride south from Echol Creek, Bud meets a young woman who also harbors dreams of making it in the movies, not as a starlet but as a writer. Lily Shaw is bold and outspoken, more confident&nbspthan her small frame and bookish looks seem to allow. The two strike up an unlikely kinship that will carry them through their tumultuous days in Hollywood. Through the wide eyes and lofty dreams of two people trying to make their mark on the world, Molly Gloss weaves a remarkable tale of humans and horses, hope and heartbreak, told by one of the most winning narrators ever to walk off the page.
MOLLY GLOSS is the best-selling author of The Hearts of Horses, The Jump-Off Creek, The Dazzle of Day, and Wild Life, and has won the PEN Center West Fiction Prize, the PNW Booksellers Award, the Oregon Book Award, and the James Tiptree Jr. Award. 
Title:Falling from HorsesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.85 inPublished:May 5, 2015Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0544484037

ISBN - 13:9780544484030

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this book I've loved all of Molly Gloss' novels, so it's no surprise that I gulped this one down within 2 days. I just fell into Bud's voice. The book is told like a memoir, with a 50-ish artist looking back on the year when he was 19, and left ranching in eastern Oregon to head to Hollywood and ride stunts in westerns. The year in Hollywood is the late '30s. On the bus to California, he meets Lily, a young woman from Seattle who plans to be a big-shot scriptwriter. They become life-long friends, but there's no romance. The two young people not falling in love is one of the ways the book tweaks your expectations. His parents on the ranch are as tough and hard-working as you'd expect, but don't quite fit into stereotype. Her characters are never cardboard. Bud talks about the movies, but also about growing up and his family. There's a description of the country he's seeing outside the bus window that I had to stop and show to Ron. Lovely writing.
Date published: 2015-09-13

Read from the Book

Prologue When I was nineteen years old, I took off from home, went to Hollywood, and worked in the movies for a year or so. This was back before the war, 1938, 1939. Jobs were still hard to come by in those days, but they were making cheap cowboy pictures as fast as they could churn them out, and I met a bronc rider at the Burns Roundup who told me you could get work down there if you could fall off a horse without breaking any bones. Or, if you broke one, at least not cry about it. He’d been working in the movies himself, but he went back to rodeo because bronc riding was duck soup compared to stunt riding, he claimed, and he wasn’t looking to get killed or crippled.   Well, I was foolheaded in those days, looking for ways to get myself into trouble—carrying too much sail, as we used to say—and all I’d been doing for the past year and a half was picking up ranch work when I could and riding rodeo without ever making much money at it. I figured I might as well get paid for what I was good at, which was bailing off.   When I was a kid I’d had the idea that the cowboys made those two-gun westerns more or less the way we played games, one of us saying, “Okay, you get shot this time.” I had some notion that they’d put me on a silver-trimmed saddle and a flashy pinto and I’d be riding hell-for-leather alongside Ken Maynard or some other cowboy star.   I was still only a half-baked kid, so I guess you could say I didn’t know any better, but when I got down to Hollywood I ran into plenty of men thirty and forty years old who’d come into town with that same idea, fellows hanging around Gower Gulch in their pawnshop cowboy clothes looking to get hired to be the next Tim McCoy. Well, I wound up in a picture with Tim McCoy. I rode in a Ken Maynard movie, met Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, all those actors, which doesn’t mean much anymore—kids these days wouldn’t know who the heck I was talking about. But back then every kid was cowboy-proud, cowboy-crazy, even the ones like me who’d grown up riding horses and working cattle and should have known better.   I was late coming to understand that the cowboy pictures didn’t show much about real ranching. You never saw a movie cowboy hauling salt up to the high pastures or building fence around a haystack or helping a heifer figure out what to do with her first calf. Those movies were full of bank robberies and stage holdups, feuds, galloping posses, murderous Indians, and claim jumpers—nothing I ever saw growing up. But in the movies it all made sense. A bad guy was to blame for whatever had gone wrong, and at the end everything turned out right. If death came for anybody in the picture, it was always clean, unlingering, unsuffering. If somebody you cared about was dying, they had strength and breath for last words, and that seemed to make it almost okay. I don’t remember actually thinking my life in Hollywood would be like the movies, but some of that must have come into my mind.   The plain truth is, some of those cowboy stars I admired turned out to be sons of bitches, or fakes who couldn’t ride worth applesauce, and what I did for the movies was mostly act like I was shot and fall off horses that were a long way from flashy. There were more than a few days I wondered if it was worth it. I saw men get busted up, I saw horses killed, and I discovered there wasn’t a bit of glory in making those damn movies.   All that picture business was finished for me a long time ago. For that matter, you could say Hollywood is finished with the cowboy. I used to have to cross the street to keep away from whatever hay-burner was playing in town, used to turn off the television to keep from seeing all those horse operas every night of the week—I just knew too much about how they got made. But now I can’t recall the last time I saw a horse on the screen. The movie cowboy has gone downtown and into outer space: now it’s all squealing tires and things blowing up, every picture trying to make a bigger fireball than the last one.   I might be tempted to think the whole country is done with cowboys, except every so often I open up the newspaper to see some Yale or Harvard lawyer who’s gone into politics, posing in his new white Stetson and ironed Levis, sitting on a tall horse and squinting into the camera like he’s spent his whole life in the West Texas sun, and I think, Well, there it is again.   I will say right here that this isn’t the whole story of my life; somebody else will have to take that up after I’m dead. The time I studied with Benton, the work I did for the Autry Center, the frescoes in Santa Fe and Carson City and the Truman Library, the book art for Jack Schaefer—none of it would have happened if I hadn’t grown up the way I did and spent that year riding horses in the movies. When I was starting out as an artist, I thought I would paint what I knew of life in the rural West, a life where people did real work, significant work, and the risk and the suffering were real. But I floundered for a long time, feeling I didn’t have the language to say anything new. It was Lily Shaw, arguing with me in letters that went back and forth between us for thirty years, who helped me see where my Hollywood year fit into things, the intersection where the West I knew growing up cuts across our great mythmaking machine, which is Hollywood. And the way those two things have always bent and shaped each other, have always been so tightly bound together they can’t be untangled. I grew up with Tom Mix as the model for how to be a cowboy, so I know I was tangled in it myself.   What I want to write about is what I saw and did down there in Hollywood and what it meant—what it means—in my life and work.   I am writing this for Lily. And also for my sister, and in some way for my parents, which I guess will become clear elsewhere in these pages.

Editorial Reviews

I read Falling from Horses in two gulps. The writing is gorgeous, the setting so beautifully realized, both time and place, the narrative voice unforgettable, and all the characters so real and compelling. Tremendous, page-turning . . . I could not have loved it more." - Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club "The story of a boy growing up into a man by way of ambition, adventure, catastrophe, love, and grief. A beautiful, moving novel, cut from the American heartwood . " - Ursula K. Le Guin, author of Lavinia and The Unreal and the Real: Selected Short Stories "Molly Gloss is always exploring that dangerous place where reality and imagination combine to form the American West, and never more than in this book, plunging as it does into the heart of the dream machine. She has a tremendous gift for bringing a situation alive, so be ready: you're about to live these lives. It's a great experience." - Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Shaman and 2312 " Falling from Horses is a beautifully crafted story of the friendship that develops between two young people-a ranch hand and an aspiring screenwriter-as they try to make it in the movies in 1930s Hollywood. Molly Gloss makes the little seen life of a movie stuntman and a back lot script girl come alive in this entertaining and often touching tale of a naive young man and woman who are trying to live their dreams." - Phillip Margolin, New York Times best-selling author of Worthy Brown's Daughter " Falling From Horses is a clear-eyed, breathtaking look at a small corner of life unknown to most: cowboy stunt riders in 1930s Hollywood. Gloss adeptly brings to life characters in search of the American Dream, while illuminating the "myth of the cowboy West" and the harsh realities that come along with it. A moving story filled with heart and insight by an author whose love of the American landscape rings loudly through each page." - Gail Tsukiyama, author of A Hundred Flowers and The Samurai's Garden "The acute sense of time and place, coupled with a cast of characters drawn with unsentimental but abiding affection, makes for a hypnotic read." - Kirkus Reviews "