From Homer to Norman Mailer and Joyce Carol Oates, the novelist picks out 10 TKOs
Clash of the titanic egos … Muhammad Ali spars with Norman Mailer.
Markus Zusak is an Australian author born in 1975, the son of Austrian and German parents. His novels for younger readers have won numerous awards and one, The Book Thief, has become a worldwide bestseller. Originally published in 2001, Fighting Ruben Wolfe has just been reissued by Definitions.
“When I was growing up, my brother went through a whole catalogue of sports both in and outside the house. Football was banned because we wrecked all of our mum’s plants. Cricket ended after a hat trick of broken windows.
“So we turned to boxing, which turned out to be something I would write about in Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and read about for years to come.
“Here are 10 of my favourite books on the subject …”
1. Rope Burns by FX Toole
You can almost inhale the smelling salts in these short stories. FX Toole, a former corner man, serves as a perfect reminder to any writer to follow the write-what-you-know rule; you read one page and you know he’s been there. Standout pieces here are “The Monkey Look”, “Black Jew” and, of course, the devastatingly beautiful “Million Dollar Baby”.
2. The Half Brother by Lars Saabye Christensen
Although this is not exactly a book about boxing, there’s a brilliant fight-night moment within this epic novel. The enigmatic half-brother, Fred, trains as hard as any boxer on the planet but, as constantly happens throughout this Norwegian writer’s masterpiece, he has a surprise up his sleeve when he enters the ring.
3. The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told by Jeff Silverman
This is a great book to dip into, depending on your mood. If you feel like hearing from the likes of Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates or Richard Ford one day, but fell more like a boxing passage from Homer the next, you can find it here. It’s interesting (and amusing) to see a character from Homer talking up his chances in the fight, too. Already back then, boxers were big-noting themselves before climbing into the ring.
4. The Professional by WC Heinz
This book just builds and builds, following a fighter on his way to a shot at the title. The book even has the feel of a training regime that is winding up to deliver the ultimate devastation. It definitely lands a blow that is unforgettable.
5. Fat City by Leonard Gardner
I have such a clear memory of one seemingly glib moment in this novel. It’s when the young boxer, Ernie Munger, is given instructions between rounds. He nods his head and “listens to none of it”. This book is acknowledged by many as one of the great books about boxing, desolation, and just getting by in the disaster areas sitting just left and right of the American dream.
6. Boxing – the Complete Illustrated Guide by Harry Mullan
Comprehensive without being overbearing, this boxing encyclopedia is an excellent introduction to the great boxers, the great moments and the true champions of the ring. Even taking another look at this book to write about it, I was carried away for half an hour or so.
7. On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates
Not too many people know about this Joyce Carol Oates title. As with all of her writing, she talks about boxing with great clarity and authority. Part history lesson, part psychological study, On Boxing is a sort of meditation on the courage it takes to make yourself so vulnerable as to step into the ring.
8. The Fight by Norman Mailer
Some people say that this is a world championship between Muhammad Ali and Norman Mailer as to who had the biggest ego. Still, if you’re interested in boxing, how can you not take a look at what Mailer does with the Rumble in the Jungle?
9. The Sweet Science by AJ Liebling
Like FX Toole, Liebling gives the reader an insight into the entire world of boxing, not just what happens in the ring. The title alone seems almost like a challenge to those who hate boxing (and who can blame them?) but this book depicts a time as much as a sport. You seem to be sitting in those dusty, men-filled rooms of America in the 1950s.
10. The Greatest by Walter Dean Myers
As a fan of the understated nature of Joe Frazier as opposed to the mouthy Muhammad Ali, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this homage to the latter. Here we see the sporting hero as an inspiration for a writer, and I was reminded that Muhammad Ali was and is – no matter what else is said about him – an amazing and courageous character.
Full article and photo: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/08/top-10-boxing-books-markus-zusak