April 23, 2009

Faulkner at The Kentucky Derby

The 135th Kentucky Derby is held on the first Saturday in May which is nine days from today.

In 1955 Sports Illustrated was first published and, wanting their magazine to stand out from the rest of the sports oriented magazines, hired Nobel prize winner William Faulkner to come to Louisville to watch and write about the Derby. What better way was there to set Sports Illustrated apart from the rest of the sports rags?

Faulkner always painted scenes with a broad brush and opened his piece by writing about Daniel Boone’s exploration and opening of Kentucky to people wanting to settle here. He ended his narrative without bothering to mention the name of the horse who won the Derby that year.

“Only a little over two minutes: one simultaneous metallic clash as the gates spring. Though you do not really know what it was you hear: whether it was that metallic crash, or the simultaneous thunder of the hooves in that first leap or the massed voices, the gasp, the exhalation--whatever it was, the clump of horses indistinguishable yet, like a brown wave dotted with the bright silks of the riders like chips flowing toward us along the rail until, approaching, we can begin to distinguish individuals, streaming past us now as individual horses--horses which (including the rider) once stood about eight feet tall and 10 feet long, now look like arrows twice that length and less than half that thickness, shooting past and bunching again as perspective diminishes, then becoming individual horses once more about the turn into the backstretch, streaming on, to bunch for the last time into the homestretch itself, then again individuals, individual horses, the individual horse, the Horse: 2:01 4/5 minutes."

I love Faulkner.


  1. Faulkner could transport you right into the scene. Nice post. Derby Day is a big deal down there, isn't it?

  2. WOW, that was progressive of Sports Illustrated! I love it.

  3. Derby day. While I was reading this I was thinking about the dog racing in Florida and how those animals run. It is amazing to watch.