But I can’t deny that I have found much to say about his work. The index to Fighters & Writers lists many writers – more of them than boxers, I’d bet – but there admittedly are quite a few page numbers after Mailer’s name. He even rivals Muhammad Ali in the number of mentions, though the two are often discussed in conjunction.
As it turns out, Fighters & Writers doesn’t contain all my musings to date on the function of boxing in Mailer’s work. Open Letters Monthly: An Anthology, 2007 – 2010 appeared in print at almost exactly the same time as Fighters & Writers. The “best of” collection from the art and literature review’s first three years includes “Mailer’s Victory,” a survey of the sport’s impact on the writer’s attitude and “moral code” as expressed in multiple books.
I consider ”Mailer’s Victory” a companion piece to “The Fighting Life,” an essay in Fighters & Writers that examines Mailer’s use of boxing in his fiction and compares it with Philip Roth’s use of it in novels including The Human Stain and Exit Ghost.
(The anthology’s cover contains “praise for Open Letters Monthly” including a line – “Astute and meticulous” – that The Millions applied to a particular essay of mine on another novelist, but I don’t mind. Why would I?)