Posted in Fighters & Writers, tagged A.J. Liebling, Alaa Al Aswany, Boxing, David Remnick, Ernest Hemingway, Fightesrs & Writers, Jeff Wall, Jodi Kantor, Joe Louis, Los Angeles, Max Schmeling, Muhammad Ali, Norman Mailer, Obamas, Rocky Balboa, The New Yorker on January 17, 2012 |
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Since Fighters & Writers was published, I’ve continued to come across items reaffirming ideas I explore in the book: that boxing’s implicit philosophy rests on qualities, like discipline and tenacity, which writers require and that this results in an ongoing productive relationship between the sport and literature. The January 16, 2012, issue of The New Yorker, for example, includes a profile of Alaa Al Aswany in which the Egyptian novelist likens himself to a boxer:
“I have to feel myself a fighter,” he said, hunching his shoulders, lowering his head, and bringing his fists up to his face…. “I am fighting for my career, for my writing, and for my success,” he went on. “Every day, I wake up early. And often I am tired, and my wife says ‘No, no.’ And I think, ‘I must get up and work.’” It is this determination that keeps him moving: “I tell my wife, ‘I am a boxer.’”
One can imagine Norman Mailer or Ernest Hemingway, some of the authors I discuss in Fighters & Writers, having similar conversations with their spouses.
Although the magazine might not carry as much boxing coverage as it did when A.J. Liebling was on the staff, the same edition of The New Yorker does include several more references to the sport. In a review of Jodi Kantor’s The Obamas, editor (and Muhammad Ali biographer) David Remnick writes that “in many black communities the celebrations surrounding the Obama election victory and the Inauguration were on a par with Joe Louis’s one-round knockout of Max Schmeling, in 1938.” Remnick also invokes “the Italian-American philosopher Rocky Balboa.” An article about efforts to build a football stadium in Los Angeles notes that the planned structure could also stage boxing matches and other events. Demonstrating that scribblers aren’t alone in their pugilistic interests, the magazine’s “Goings on about Town” section decorates its list of art gallery shows with an image created by Jeff Wall showing two gloved boys sparring in a living room. It’s titled “Boxing.”
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Posted in Fighters & Writers, tagged A.J. Liebling, Albert Camus, Boxing, Christopher Hitchens, Darin Strauss, David Remnick, George Foreman, George Orwell, George Plimpton, Henry Rollins, Ian McEwan, James Braddock, Joe Frazier, Joe Louis, John McCain, José Torres, Joyce Carol Oates, Larry Holmes, Martin Amis, Max Baer, Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Norman Mailer, Oscar Wilde, Philip Roth, W.C. Heinz on May 21, 2010 |
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As I write this post, Fighters & Writers is at the printer. Here’s a bit of background on my forthcoming book.
Fighters & Writers is neither a traditional sports book nor a conventional collection of literary essays. It blends literary criticism, journalism and memoir and considers both the lively body of literature directly related to boxing and the ways the sport relates to writers not usually identified with it.
Essays in Fighters & Writers discuss works about boxing by authors such as Albert Camus, W.C. Heinz, A.J. Liebling, Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, George Plimpton, Philip Roth, New Yorker editor David Remnick, Darin Strauss and José Torres – a boxing champion who became a writer – as well as the cultural impact made by boxers like Muhammad Ali, Max Baer, James Braddock, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson. Rodwan also considers the sport in connection with figures such as Martin Amis, Christopher Hitchens, John McCain, Ian McEwan, George Orwell, Henry Rollins and Oscar Wilde.
The title essay surveys a selection of the mammoth body of literature involving boxing in addition to writing on closely related topics such as confidence games. “The Ali Act” considers writers’ undiminished interest in one extraordinary boxer. “The Fighting Life” looks at two prominent writers’ use of boxing in their fiction. “A First-Class Sport” assesses boxing’s frequently overlooked positive aspects by examining the memoirs and autobiographies of several boxing enthusiasts, including a former heavyweight champion, a well-known trainer and television analyst, and prominent public figures including a former president and a U.S. senator. Other pieces in the collection explore how boxing inserts itself in writers’ imaginations even when they write about other subjects. Essays on diverse topics such as book dedications, Orwell’s Spanish Civil War memories, digressions, tattoos and weight loss reveal the close, if not always recognized, connections between fighters and writers.
Carlo Rotella, author of Cut Time: An Education at the Fights, called Fighters & Writers “a spirited and far-ranging meditation on boxing that’s also a thoughtful inquiry into the relationship between the writer’s craft and the fighter’s.”
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