Starts and Finishes: Coming of age in the fifties

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9780841503717: Starts and Finishes: Coming of age in the fifties

Starts and Finishes is about growing up, an accepted literary theme, but with a difference: the author was born into one of the first families of thoroughbred racing. His grandfather, G. Carey Winfrey, could recall with clarity races run at Bowie (Maryland) in "nineteen and nine"; Winfrey's father was Bill Winfrey, who trained the incomparable Native Dancer, the "Grey Ghost" of the 1950s who won 21 out of 22 races (and finished second in his only loss).

Writers may grow up in sweetness or in pain, but few writers have recollections of the month of August in Saratoga Springs, New York, when the nation's fastest horses compete around the historic oval.

"It was not to the grandstand I used to go at all, but to the backstretch. It was a totally relaxed atmosphere where stable hands and wives and children spent sunny, lazy afternoons picnicking under the elms and watching the races. Sometimes, if a race started on the backstretch, Mr. Cassidy, the starter, would take my cousin Judy and me with him up to the little green, wooden starter's stand beside the starting gate. There he squeezed a buzzer that rang a bell and open the gate's doors, sending a cavalry charge of mounted steeds flying down the track, their jockeys urging them on with shouted imprecations. We got to know all the assistant starters big, strong men in khaki shirts and khaki who told endless stories about the [Second World] war and the women they had loved."

Carey Winfrey got older and also learned to tell stories about war and the women he loved. Starts and Finishes is about growing up and about one member of that belated generation that began to learn about life in Eisenhower America and reluctantly came of age during the decade that ended with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It's a memorable portrait of those years and as we hurtle through the 21st century, how often we may wish we were up at Saratoga in August, underneath the elms, where the only reality to face was picking a longshot in the seventh race.

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About the Author:

Carey Winfrey's career in journalism spanned nearly half a century in newspapers, television and magazines as a reporter (The New York Times), producer (PBL, HK-TVB, WNET/13, CBS) and editor (Time, People). He was editor-in-chief of Cuisine, Memories, American Health and Smithsonian magazines. In 2001, at age 70, he retired from Smithsonian after ten years at its helm. In retirement, he made a one-hour documentary film about Key West s literary community ("Writers on Bicycles") and co-wrote, with John Leslie, a political thriller (Hail to the Chief).

Review:

[Winfrey writes] with enough matter-of-fact immediacy to disarm evenpeople whohate both instant autobiography and the fabulous fifties.--Kirkus

Winfrey tellsus what it was like to be a child amongchampion horses and those who attendedthem. --The New York Times BookReview

Winfrey's manner gives his really ratherracy life story an unexpected Grover's Corners charm. --National Review

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