They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (Serpent's Tail Classics) - Horace McCoy There's only one horse in this book and the poor thing only gets half a page of story in which it also unfortunately gets shot - personally, I think this is the one moving bit of the novel and perhaps [b:They Shoot Horses, Don't They?|152052|They Shoot Horses, Don't They?|Horace McCoy|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327931127s/152052.jpg|1869042] would have been so much better if there were actually more horses in it. Or, you know, it just hadn't been written at all.

What this book is really about is existentialism. Not horses. I won't lie to you, I've spent the last couple of years going by the wikipedia definition of existentialism, I'm not an expert on it, I don't claim to understand it in any depth... but I think I know enough to say that even big existentialist fans might struggle to find something fabulous in [b:They Shoot Horses, Don't They?|152052|They Shoot Horses, Don't They?|Horace McCoy|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327931127s/152052.jpg|1869042]. I could be wrong, I mean, somebody obviously loved it for it to make it onto the 1001 list. However, I'd say approximately 20 pages (at a stretch) of this 128 page novel are dedicated to the exploration of existentialism, and the rest is about a dance competition and those involved in said dance competition.

Existentialist thinkers are known for being angsty, and they are also known for believing that pretty much everyone else is deeply submerged in their own personal angst that comes with realising your own freedom to act and your responsibilities in life. Existentialism is largely about self-awareness and it is said to threaten someone's personal harmony when they "find themselves" and realise they are shit or they are unable to achieve what they see as their ultimate goal of being (e.g. being a singer). So, great.

The way this applies in [b:They Shoot Horses, Don't They?|152052|They Shoot Horses, Don't They?|Horace McCoy|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327931127s/152052.jpg|1869042] is that we are immediately taken to the present where the narrator is on trial for the murder of his dance partner - Gloria - and then we travel into the past so we can see why he shot her. And he shot her because she asked him to. Gloria hates herself, her life, the world, everything, and she decides she is better off dead. I always thought I was the very definition of a nihilist until I read about Gloria and realised how little I shared her world view. Perhaps I'm not as into nihilism as I thought...

My lack of sympathy for Gloria aside, this whole existentialist philosophy thing is still only a small portion of the novel. It is mainly about the dance marathon competition and the petty arguments that happen behind the scenes, I suppose this is meant to form a platform on which Gloria can whine about life but it's just insanely boring. I obviously made a mistake choosing to get some of the shorter novels on the 1001 list out of the way, so far they've all been really disappointing.