Also reviewed in the Times yesterday was “At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing.” I’ve been touting the book all spring. It was edited by two veteran writers I’m fortunate to call friends: George Kimball and John Schulian. I was thrilled that it received nothing short of a rave from Gordon Marino:
More than any other sport, even baseball or golf, boxing calls forth the muse in writers. It’s no surprise. Where there is risk there is drama, and boxers put more at risk than other athletes. In a single evening, they roll the dice with their health, marketability and sense of identity. When you have a bad night in the ring, you can’t make it up in a double header on Sunday, or on another football field in a week’s time. And after the very last bell, there is seldom a diploma to fall back on, and there sure won’t be any pension checks coming in the mail.
It’s a very hard game — maybe even crazy — but as the affection-filled writers who have attached themselves to these warriors know, the masters of the ring possess a unique nobility. That nobility is perfectly framed in this remarkable volume from the Library of America. The essays here capture every angle of this world, both solemn and comic.
…I would bemoan only one omission, namely, the wise, lustrous pages of F. X. Toole’s introduction to his short-story collection, “Rope Burns.” Though “At the Fights” weighs in at 500-plus pages, it doesn’t contain a single flabby contribution. Over and over again, writers and readers have sought to get behind the eyes of a fighter, to fathom the fighter’s heart. This is as close as you can get without catching a hook to the head.
It’s my favorite book that’s come out this year. Perfect for Father’s Day or any other day you want to be graced by a collection of great writing.
[Cartoon by George Price]