think first of setting it at ChurchillrnDowns — that brassy track in Louisvillernwhich holds its tinsel-television spectaclernof the Kentucky Derby every May. Instead,rnAlyson Hagy chose Keeneland,rnLexington’s track set in the middle of thernBluegrass horse farms. Keeneland isrnsmaller, greener, more pleasant in ever}’rnway, and it’s a C|uick trip from the standsrnback to the paddock to see the horsesrnas they saddle up for the next race,rnsomething that for me is always the bestrnpart of the racing day. Only recently didrnKeeneland get an announcer (the equivalent,rnfor you Cubs fans, of installingrnnight lights at Wrigley Field); and racesrnrun in that now-lost relative silence had arngreater charm, too. hi her choice of setting,rnLlagy avoided the obvious for thernmore interesting: an early sign to thernreader that her novel will be a good one.rnWith its hats and clubhouse pins, itsrnincomprehensible racing form, its exactasrnand boxed bets, the ritual (and tornmany it is precisely that) of going to thernracetrack has never had much allure forrnme, though you’re not supposed to admitrnit when you’ve grown up a few miles fromrnthe Downs. Wliat I do understand is thernappeal of the horses. Alyson Llagy feels itrntoo, which is why she has set her novelrnnot in the “upstairs” of thoroughbred racing,rnamong the owners in the stands, butrnin the downstairs, the backside, wherernthe horses are exercised and timed, closelyrnwatched and understood by a very differentrngroup of people.rnThe novel is told in the voice of Kerrv’rnConnelly, an exercise rider who has comernto Lexington to work the spring meet, onrnthe run from a husband in New York whornis up to his chin in dope and loan sharks.rnShe has beelined to the place she callsrnhome —not Frankfort, Kentucky, wherernshe finished high school, nor her mother’srnplace in Florida, but the track wherernshe first made something of a name forrnherself, before leaving with a man shernloved and falling flat. At Keeneland, shernhopes to hide for a while, work enough tornWhen in Rockford,rnEat atrnLee’s Chinese Restaurantrn3443 N. Main Streetrneat, and sort out her feelings.rnKerry is a compelling character, andrnthe string of bad decisions she makes onlyrnplaces her essential integrity in sharperrnrelief In punishing herself for her mistakes,rnshe does the job thoroughlyalienatingrnher old friends, losing herrnearnings at poker, allowing herself to bernsweet-talked into a scam, getting beat up.rnLiving among the racing equivalent ofrncarnival people, Kerr- has learned to likernthe roughness. Owing to Kerr”s truenessrnand resilience, though, the story is lessrngritty than a quick synopsis makes itrnsound. All this self-punishment is part ofrnher healing: She tells herself at one pointrnthat she doesn’t deser’e to work for herrnold friend Billy T., but has to earn a newrnfuture for herself, without help. Even asrnher circumstances worsen, she finds firstrnhope, and then salvation. This is not arn”Christian” novel, but it is a pilgrim’srnprogress, a character study of a goodrnwoman trying to make sense of a worldrnwhose mix of betrayal and grace is recognizablernto all of us, backsiders or not.rnKerry takes great care of her mounts.rnShe reads them better than their trainersrndo, being a lot like a smart, high-strungrnmare herself Her transcendent feelingsrnduring her dawn rides are instantly recognizablernto anyone who, on the back of arnhorse, has felt something similar; thesernpassages are beautifully written, evocative,rnand show the depth of spirit Kerr- isrncapable of—when not snatching at thernseemingly shortest way out of trouble,rnwhich, like most shortcuts, isn’t.rnAnother pleasure of this book is therncare with which it is written; well-paced,rnit ends just as it should. Hagy’s minorrncharacters are nicely drawn, too: amongrnthem Reno, the boy preacher turned stablernforeman who sermonizes to his horses;rnAlice, a mid-level trainer fighfing tornkeep her barn in business; and Red Flora,rnthe jockey agent, always positive, alwaysrnanxious, whose young clients alwaysrnditch him in the end.rnCapturing the protagonist’s voice,rnhowever, is Hag”s real accomplishment.rnKerry is a character who rings true: notrnjust as an individual but as a representativernof an entire late-centur’ generationrnof 20-somethings. We live in hard times,rnand the Kerrs of this world will need arngood seat, light hands, and plenty of gritrnin order to ride them out.rnKatherine Dalton lives on a cattle farm inrnNew Castle, Kentucky, and is the authorrnof Quill Bark and Laudanum, a play.rnOnward and Upwardrnby Paul GottfriedrnHow We Got Here: The Seventiesrnby David FnimrnNew York: Basic Books; 418 pp., $25.00rnLike the Roman cursus honorum, thernascending path of neoconservahvernsuccess is carefully prescribed. Instead ofrnthe progress from aedile to consul, however,rnthe journey leads through hackworkrnup to the glories of publishing with BasicrnBooks, appearing on TV talk shows, andrngracing the mastheads of neocon magazines.rnDavid Frum managed to movernthrough all of these levels while still in hisrn30’s, and although he lives in Washington,rnhe continues to propound distinctlyrnneoconservative views in his native Canadarnas a columnist for the National Post.rnPrevious to this study of America in thern1970’s, Frum produced two books settingrnforth the tenets of a defanged conservatismrnwhile damning those of therncrotchet}’ Old Right. Wliile the neoconsrnhowl against the counterculture andrn”new class” machinafions, their criticjuernis not aimed at the minions of the federalrngovernment nor the political class in general.rnAs ambitious Beltway climbers,rnneocon journalists have no desire to slayrnthe monsters that sustain them: They dornnot oppose unrestricted immigrationrnfrom the Third World and the social engineeringrnthat accompanies it; nor “moderate”rnfeminism; nor an activist foreignrnpolicy designed to “moralize” otherrncountries; nor most of Bill Clinton’srn”centrist” policies. What they deplorernare the excesses of the hippies of thern1960’s and 70’s. For neocons, the enemyrnis never government per se, which we arernexpected to love as the highest expressionrnof patriotism, but the cultural changernbrought about by the counterculturalrnrebels of the 60’s. Although the “ReaganrnRevolution” supposedly cleansed the restrnof our society, academia and at least arnportion of the media are thought by neoconservativesrnto remain firmly under therncontrol of “hate America” zealots. Summingrnup their view, Chester Finn, thernneocon educational guru, describes thernacademic world as “an island of totalitarianismrnin a sea of freedom.”rnUnlike Frum’s earlier books. How Wern32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn