Kathryn Scanlan’s ‘Kick the Latch’ vividly captures the arc of one woman’s life at the racetrack—the flat land and ramshackle backstretch; the bad feelings and friction; the winner’s circle and the racetrack bar; the fancy suits and fancy boots; and the “particular language” of “grooms, jockeys, trainers, racing secretaries, stewards, pony people, hotwalkers, everybody”—with economy and integrity. Based on transcribed interviews with Sonia, a horse trainer, the novel investigates form and authenticity in a feat of synthesis reminiscent of Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony. As Scanlan puts it, “I wanted to preserve—amplify, exaggerate—Sonia’s idiosyncratic speech, her bluntness, her flair as a storyteller. I arrived at what you could call a composite portrait of a self.” Whittled down with a fiercely singular artistry, ‘Kick the Latch’ bangs out of the starting gate and carries the reader on a careening joyride around the inside track.
Kathryn Scanlan is the author of Aug 9—Fog and The Dominant Animal, and the recipient of a 2021 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Kick the Latch, her third book, was published in the US by New Directions in 2022 and by Daunt Books in the UK in 2023. Originally from Iowa, she currently lives in Los Angeles.
Kate Briggs is a writer and French-to-English translator based in Rotterdam where she co-runs the publishing project Short Pieces That Move! She is the author of This Little Art (2017), an essay on the practice of translation and The Long Form, a novel (2023), published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK and forthcoming with Dorothy, a publishing project in the US.