The Fight

The Fight From One Of The Major Innovators Of New Journalism, Norman Mailer S The Fight Is The Real Life Story Of A Clash Between Two Of The World S Greatest Boxers, Both In And Out Of The Ring, Published In Penguin Modern ClassicsNorman Mailer S The Fight Focuses On TheWorld Heavyweight Boxing Championship In Kinshasa, Zaire Muhammad Ali Met George Foreman In The Ring Foreman S Genius Employed Silence, Serenity And Cunning He Had Never Been Defeated His Hands Were His Instrument, And He Kept Them In His Pockets The Way A Hunter Lays His Rifle Back Into Its Velvet Case Together The Two Men Made Boxing History In An Explosive Meeting Of Two Great Minds, Two Iron Wills And Monumental EgosNorman Mailer Was Born In Long Branch, New Jersey, And Attended Harvard University At The Age Of Sixteen He Majored In Engineering, But It Was While He Was At University That He Became Interested In Writing After Graduating He Served During The War In The Philippines With The Twelfth Armoured Cavalry Regiment From Texas Those Were The Years That Formed The Naked And The DeadInHe Co Founded The Village Voice, And Was The Editor Of Dissent FromUntilAmong His Other Works Are The Armies Of The NightThe Executioner S Song, Both Of Which Won Mailer A Pulitzer PrizeIf You Enjoyed The Fight, You Might Like Gay Talese S Frank Sinatra Has A Cold, Also Available In Penguin Modern Classics If Ever A Fighter Had Been Able To Demonstrate That Boxing Was A Twentieth Century Art, It Must Be Ali , Says Norm, And His Achievement In This Masterly Book Is Of A Similar Order, Demonstrating That Writing About Sport Can Also Be A Twentieth Century Art Geoff Dyer, New Statesman Probably No One Has Written About Boxing Better Than Mailer Has Guardian

Truman Capote,

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  • Paperback
  • 239 pages
  • The Fight
  • Norman Mailer
  • English
  • 08 July 2019
  • 9780141184142

10 thoughts on “The Fight

  1. says:

    This book was a respectable yet not exactly remarkable 4 star affair, up until the thirty or so pages which described the fight itself That deceptively diminutive section comprised perhaps the most electrifying, intense, transcendent fight writing I ve ever encountered The following is my favorite excerpt from that insane whirlwind of prose The barrage began With Ali braced on the ropes, as far back on the ropes as a deep sea fisherman is braced back in his chair when setting the hook on a big strike, so Ali got ready and Foreman came on to blast him out A shelling reminiscent of artillery battles in World War I began Neither man moved than a few feet in the next minute and a half Across that embattled short space Foreman threw punches in barrages of four and six and eight and nine, heavy maniacal slamming punches, heavy as the boom of oaken doors, bombs to the body, bolts to the head, punching until he could not breathe, backing off to breathe again and come in again, bomb again, blast again, drive and steam and slam the torso in front of him, wreck him in the arms, break through those arms, get to his ribs, dig him out, dig him out, put the dynamite in the earth, lift him, punch him, punch him up to heaven, take him out, stagger him great earthmover he must have sobbed to himself, kill this mad and bouncing goat.And Ali, gloves to his head, elbows to his ribs, stood and swayed and was rattled and banged and shaken like a grasshopper at the top of a reed when the wind whips, and the ropes shook and swung like sheets in a storm, and Foreman would lunge with his right at Ali s chin and Ali go flying back out of reach by a half inch, and half out of the ring, and back in to push at Foreman s elbow and hug his own ribs and sway, and sway just further, and lean back and come forward from the ropes and slide off a punch and fall back into the ropes with all the calm of a man swinging in the rigging Flawless victory, Mr Mailer

  2. says:

    One of the factors that tends to dampen my enthusiasm for boxing is that the matches themselves take place so infrequently if you enjoy watching a certain fighter, it might be months or likely even years before you can watch him fight again This is due in part, to be sure, to the toll taken on the participants But contrast this with a sport like Major League Baseball, which offers an embarrassment of riches 162 games a year, one game almost every single day from April to October Baseball, a friend said to me recently, is pastoral, it seems to exist outside of time and theoretically, there is no limit to how long a baseball game can last there is an unhurriedness to baseball, something comforting about its always being there in the background of one s life as needed, and something comforting about the rhythm of an individual pitcher s unvarying mechanics and delivery, like waves crashing ashore and receding Further, it almost seems vulgar to suggest that anyone would ever make money off of baseball, or gamble on the outcome although even players themselves have, many times , that it is anything than a moving painting of the American heartland in all its good sportsmanship, patriotism and innocence Baseball is a myth Boxing, on the other hand, is openly sleazy and violent this is part of its appeal The matches sometimes often, I think take place in Las Vegas, which is an indisputably sleazy city If baseball runs like clockwork, whether or not a boxing match even happens depends on esoteric demands the fighters make of each other drug tests, weight class, and of course money , as well as a legion of promoters, fixers, TV execs, etc., all getting their cuts Coming up with a snazzy name for the fight also seems to be crucial All this for an event that could conceivably be over within a few minutes A fight means different things to different people the events leading up to it are often interesting than the fight itself For Mobutu, the dictator of what was in 1974 Zaire, the fight between Ali and Foreman seems to be a way to shore up domestic political support, hosting it as a gift for his people it is in the basement of the structure, the Stade du 20 Mai, that Mobutu s police force has recently summarily executed 50 purported criminals rounded up from the street there could still very well be dried blood in the fighters dressing rooms, Mailer notes Anyone even remotely connected to the fight seems to descend on Kinshasha about a month in advance the journalists who spend their time analyzing the matchup from every conceivable angle, its technical and psychological aspects, hanging on every word from the fighters and their trainers as hints to the potential outcome infamously crazy people like Don King roaming the hotel hallways How he could talkno verbal situation could be foreign to himonce you became accustomed to the stately seesaw of his rhetoric it gave nourishment to your ear the way a Cossack s horse in full stride would give drumbeats to the steppes and each fighter s managers, trainers, bodyguards, sparring partners, and miscellaneous hangers on, occasionally getting acrimonious with each other in the lobby of the Inter Continental, Foreman s manager s expression seeming to suggest, when asked about the fight, nobody knows the evil you will see Mailer s assignment struck me as being a lot of fun get paid to live in a nice hotel for a month, write down observations, listen to Ali talk, and drink into the wee hours of the morning I ll take that job if no one else wants it But maybe it was too much fun Hunter S Thompson was there too, to cover the fight for RollingStone, and never did materials seem ready , Mailer writes, for the sensational repudiation Hunter could give to organized madness but Thompson seems to have spent most of the time sloshed The book finds its main focus in the contrast between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman If, like me, you don t know much about boxing, you might instinctively assume that Ali was the favorite but this is 1974, Ali in his early 30s is considered to be slightly past his prime, and Foreman, in his mid 20s, is undefeated The two seem to be opposites not only in the ring Ali the artist and tactician, Foreman the slugger but in terms of personality Mailer captures how Ali, with the same hysteria one first heard ten years ago , seems to need to talk, even though it also seems to drain him physically, and something in his voice promised that you would never know how much he believed of what he had to say whereas Foreman is reserved and cryptic, sometimes gnomic in his brevity Ali famously refused to fight in Vietnam, for which he lost his championship title and was banned from fighting for four years of what should have been his athletic prime Foreman as a kid was accused of drunkenness, truancy, vandalism, strong arm robbery , became a purse snatcher, and at that was a total failure undone by his victims cries for God s assistance, he was compelled to run back and return all the purses We know the rest of the story Foreman joins the Job Corps, and wins the Heavyweight title in the Olympics before he is twenty one He dances around the ring with a little flag Don t talk down the American system to me , he says in full investiture of that flag, its rewards will be there for anybody if he will make up his mind, bend his back, lean hard into his chores and refuse to allow anything to defeat him I ll wave that flag in every public place I can , to which Ali would shout at a boxing writers dinner six years later, I m going to beat your Christian ass, you white flag waving bitch There was a real poetry and humor to Ali s insults According to Wikipedia, the basketball star Wilt Chamberlain once challenged Ali to a fight, and Ali intimidated the 7 2 Chamberlain into calling it off with the following suggestions of what might occur in their fight timber , and the tree will fall Earlier, observing Foreman flanked by his bodyguards, Mailer seems to be writing the screenplay introduction for the ultimate Rocky villain Other champions had a presence larger than themselves They offered charisma Foreman had silencea Heavyweight champion must live in a world where proportions are gone He is conceivably the most frightening unarmed killer alive With his hands he could slay fifty men before he would become too tired to kill any one reason Ali inspired love was that his personality invariably suggested that he would not hurt an average man, merely dispose of each attack by a minimal move and go on to the next Whereas Foreman offered full menace In any nightmare of carnage, he would go on and on Yeah I ve heard of you , Foreman tells Mailer You re the champ among writers Kind of funny that writers instinctively ascribe art to boxing, and boxers ascribe the principles of a fight to writing Writing in this view is just another game you re either the champ or you re a nobody, you re either dominant or getting knocked out.Mailer chronicles every portent and dream, every conceivable variation of nature and the occult, leading up to the fight Foreman s dreams, for example, include a rather complicated one about teaching a dog to ice skate one of Foreman s bodyguards supposedly has a perfect record of seeing in his dreams, the night before the match, the number of the round in which Foreman s opponent will be KO d This time, Mailer reports, there s something wrong with the bodyguard s dream, some imperfection, and the bodyguard refuses to speak about it Mailer goes running with Ali, and finds that he can keep Ali s pace for a solid mile surely a bad sign for Ali Outside Mailer s hotel room, he finds that his balcony, which does not have a railing, is separated from his neighbor s by only a six inch concrete partition he has the urge to go out and step from one balcony to the next, which involves holding on for a few seconds to nothing but the partition, and finds that he can only bring himself to do it while drunk He worries that his lack of courage makes him unworthy to root for Ali, may even doom Ali somehow Ali watches a horror movie the night before the match held at 4 a.m local time , Baron Blood, and enjoys it Mailer wonders if, for a fighter, the refinement of your best reflexes which sex offered would be worth the absence of rapacity it might also leave If the book occasionally suggests about Mailer as a person than the reader wants to know, well, that s part of reading Mailer also The thing is, Mailer can seriously write I m not sure how many people under the age of 35 realize this My friend Billy is the only other Mailer fan I know who is my age Yes, Mailer refers to himself in the third person throughout this book, which is weird And you may not agree or like everything he has to say but there is not a lazy sentence in the book Writers like Mailer remind me of language s potential to shape perception, render the haze of thought lucid, and offer pleasure There are memorable lines throughout A man should not open his limbs to sorcery any than he might encourage his soul to slip into the mists Have a good run , he said, like the man in the water waving in martyred serenity at the companions to whom he has just offered his spot in the lifeboat All that spirit, all that prick The two never came together The mood of the bus was like a forest road on a wet winter day and maybe it makes sense, being so attuned to portents, that he would also write well about weather Then the rainy season, two weeks latecame at last to term with the waters of the cosmos and the groans of the Congo The rainy season broke, and the stars of the African heaven came down In the torrent, in that long protracted moon green dawn, rain fell in silver sheets and silver blankets, waterfalls and rivers, in lakes that dropped like a stone from above, and with a slap of contact louder than the burst of fire in a forest Does Mailer ever question the nature of boxing, the violence of it, why he and others enjoy it No, not really A couple of reviews here criticize him for that But is he obligated to Maybe Mailer, who often wrote about violent people Gary Gil, Lee Harvey Oswald , as well as being one himself to a certain degree, saw violence as an unremarkable fact of life, and took it for granted that people, including himself, were attracted to it One may find this objectionable, or just realistic, but I don t see it as a flaw in the book.There s incredible tension as he describes Ali in his dressing room before the fight, a tension not necessarily connected to the question of which fighter would win One is reminded of Mailer s comment that certain observers genuinely feared for Ali s life He read the names aloudand once again contrasted the number of nobodies Foreman had fought with the number of notables he had met It was as if he had to take still one look at the marrow of his life For the first time in all these months, he seemed to want to offer a public showing of the fear which must come to him in a dream He began to chatter as though no one were in the room and he were talking in his sleep, Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, you can t hit what you can t see It must be dark when you get knocked out , he said, contemplating the ogre of midnight Why, I never been knocked outI been knocked down, but never out Like a dreamer awakening to the knowledge that the dream is only a net above one s death, he cried out, That s strangebeing stopped Again, he shook his head Yeah , he said, that s a bad feeling waiting for night to choke up on you Then he must have come to the end of this confrontation with feelings that moved in on him like fog Yes , he said to the room at large, let s get ready for the rumble in the jungle , and he began to call to people across the room Hey, Bundini , he cried out, are we gonna dance But Bundini did not reply A sorrow was in the room Does anybody hear me cried Ali Are we going to the dance If at all possible, it is probably most exciting to read this book without knowing the outcome of the fight I thought I probably knew at first, but was then pleased to realize that I had been confusing The Rumble in the Jungle with The Thrilla in Manila, in which Ali fought Joe Frazier, and that I did not know the outcome after all The Refereehad been waiting George had time to reach his corner, shuffle his feet, huddle with the trust, get the soles of his shoes in resin, and the fighters were meeting in the center of the ring to get instructions It was the time for each man to extort a measure of fear from the otherForemanhad done it to Frazier and then to Norton A big look, heavy as death, oppressive as the closing of the door of one s tomb To Foreman, Ali now said as everybody was later informed , You have heard of me since you were young You ve been following me since you were a little boy Now, you must meet me, your master Foreman blinked, Foreman looked surprised as if he had been impressed just a little than he expected He tapped Ali s glove in a move equal to saying, That s your round Now we start.

  3. says:

    9 10 , , , , O , , , , The Executioner s Song , , , , 30 1974 20 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

  4. says:

    Two dangerous men, larger than life in the way great boxers often are, meet in Africa to perform boxing Norman Mailer does a great job describing the fight, the fighters, sports journalism, the journalists, and the defiant corruption of Mobutu s nation Just as a boxer learns the magic geometry of intent vs pain, searching within it for their moments of opportunity, the writer learns how words contain a magic by which they may dissect time In real time combat is measured by the length of your opponent s response, the spectator or video camera records this as a series of who first did what when where However, words stretch events, foreshorten others, and resonate with themes that reside outside simple causality Mailer unwinds the relatively brief events of the ring into a cogent analysis of the complicated culture that fosters a professional boxer, how it is that they transform their bodies into manifest ideals of a combative art That and so much .At the time of Mailer s death, having never read much by him, I wasn t sure what the hoopla was at his passing Now I understand why many consider him one of the greats.

  5. says:

    Deeply mixed about this book Mailer s aggressive, deeply masculine prose is perfectly suited to describing physical activity, so the chapters dealing with the actual boxing match are very nearly perfect exciting, suspenseful, and just breathless enough Among the very best sports writing that I ve read.On the other hand, Mailer s aggressive, deeply masculine prose causes problems when describing just about anything else The build up to and aftermath of the fight are narcissistic, self serving, condescending, and than a little racist His research is lazy He s clearly in awe of Ali He makes no effort to explore his own biases about race, boxing, Africa, or anything else I can t for the life of me figure out what the point is Very similar themes are handled much sensitively and lucidly if at a fraction of the breathless excitement level, since it s about tennis and not boxing by John McPhee in his superb Levels of the Game Boxing as metaphor was never done as well as in AJ Liebling s Ahab and Nemesis Read those instead.

  6. says:

    Chapters 13 15, about the actual fight, are perhaps the best description of a live sporting event I ve ever read, and worth five stars alone The rest is somewhat discursive, but there is something inherently enjoyable about the very thought of Norman Mailer undertaking an early morning jog with Muhammad Ali after eating a large meal, getting drunk and gambling all night long with George Plimpton In fact, I think I ve had dreams like this.

  7. says:

    One of the most amazing and historic boxing matches in the colorful history of the sport occurred in 1974 when Muhammad Ali surprised the world and defeated George Foreman to reclaim the world heavyweight title in Zaire Much has been written about this fight, including this book by renowned author Norman Mailer Part historical, part play by play and part memoir Mailer inserts himself in the book , the reader will get an interesting perspective of this fight and the setting in which it took place Since the book was originally published in 1975, one can easily note that there are sections and passages that would not pass an editor s eye today, such as when Mailer stated that Africa is shaped like a pistol, say the people here, and Zaire is the trigger He also writes most of the book in a masculine point of view, sometimes a little too much that might make a reader uncomfortable At the beginning of the book, he does state that he is going to do this, so it is not unexpected This will also allow the reader, should he or she wish to continue, to get a different perspective One part that I did enjoy was when Norman how he referred to himself throughout the book went jogging with Ali when the boxer was doing road work While the pace was slower and he didn t last the entire length of the run, it was nonetheless something that is not typically found in other books on this fight.The best aspect of the book are chapters 13 through 15, the fight itself Here, the masculinity of Norman s writing shines best, as the reader will feel like he or she is ringside Not just from the punches or reading about Ali s famous strategy by leaning on the ropes early, but also from what is said by each fighter and their corners There are similar segments earlier in the book when Mailer visits each fighter s training and workouts Knowing how the fight ends before starting the book, it was amazing to see that some of the popular myths about that fight, such as that Foreman was not prepared, are simply that myths, not actual events Some of the early portions of the book seem to drag, but this is an overall quick read and very entertaining As long as the reader keeps in mind the biases and the time period in which this is written, it should be able to be enjoyed by many readers.

  8. says:

    A few things to know about Norman Mailer 1 He s full of himself and he s full of baloney Mailer has never been devoid of ego He plays the game of writer as prize fighter, and considers every book a match for the crown He s in the ring with the heavyweights and he wants to out write them all This gives rise to a great amount of personal huffery that manifests in totally unsupportable opinions e.g., good fucking makes good babies, from a different book and a strange belief in his ability to manipulate cosmic forces He spends pages describing a drunken balancing act that puts a marker in the universe that could just possibly influence the match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman 2., he s an absolutely brilliant journalist, and artist, capable of accurate description, great insight, and beautiful sentences The joy in reading Mailer is that he keeps defect and attribute in tension, and even has a sense of humor about himself, And so he brought his remarkable gifts to bear on a boxing match that a great part of the world saw fit to pay attention to, intelligencia saw fit to write about, and fight aficionados talk about forty years later The Rumble in the Jungle.Ali v Foreman and a ten million dollar purse in the heat, humidity, corruption, and danger of Kinshasa, Zaire Mailer takes us into the cosmic scene of the African spirit world, the political scene of a country gone to hell, the social scene, the architectural oddities of a stadium that was used to store and torture political prisoners when it wasn t being used for sporting events, the training, the media circus, the fight, and its aftermath, and as deeply into the minds of these two fighters as is possible What an eye for detail, old Norman has, and what a facility with words to get it all down, from the rapid flurry of combination punches, to the feel of the African night.Here are a few bits On two other fighters, As boxers, Ellis and Liston had such different moves one could not pass a bowl of soup to the other without spilling it On Foreman s marked stillness, One did not allow violence to dissipate one stored it Serenity was the vessel where violence could be stored So everyone around Foreman had orders to keep people off They did And this final bit of nature writing, The rainy season broke, and the stars of the African heaven came down In the torrent, in that long protracted moon green dawn, rain fell in silver sheets and silver blankets, waterfalls and from above, and with a slap of contact louder than the burst of fire in a forest It came in buckets, a tropical rain right out of the heart overhead But I m leaving out the 219 words that describe the 8th round knock out, a description so beautiful it s a marvel it s about a blow to the head that fell a huge man a heavyweight champion.I like Mailer His journalism is almost always a good read, and he s the godfather of Gonzo The Fight is worth it.

  9. says:

    exhilarating and damn near perfect less about the fight though very much about the fight than about mailer s own crazy making demons builds to an absolutely thrilling climax and ends quietly and beautifully with an earned sense of peace the first mailer book i ve ever read where he really just nails an ending great book.

  10. says:

    3 1 2 stars The thing about Norman Mailer, in my opinion, is that he sometimes thinks that he is to writing as what Muhammad Ali is to boxing and that he can do no wrong By being the greatest writer of all time he makes reading a simple thing like a book about a very famous boxing match a difficult read than it needs to be At times this book gets confusing, like around chapter 2 or 3 where Norman starts to question his love of Black people and that maybe he might be a racist after all What are you trying to say Norman That you are racist when it comes to African American black men, their pimp ideology, their jive attitude this was written in the 70 s and I m not playing race cards here , but the African black man is a spiritual, intelligent, introspective type of person Or are you just angry that you flew all the way to Africa with a stomach virus only to find out that when you arrived the fight had been postponed due to George Foreman s cut eye and felt like taking it out on a race of people Also, Norman, why are you constantly referring to yourself in the third person Why did you feel the need to get drunk and go balcony hopping at the Intercontinental Hotel Did you really think your act of drunken bravery would help Ali regain his title Why did you feel like telling us in the first place, to demonstrate your manliness Did you really like Don King all that much or was I just interpreting your words incorrectly Why did you feel the need to name drop Hunter S Thompson into your book, only to use him for two pages What were you trying to convey by quoting Thompson s Bad Genet when referring to Don King I m not that smart Norman and I need an explanation In all fairness, this book was by far and away one of the best boxing books I have ever read, even with all the tangents and the sometimes indecipherable prose and confusing story line It is the best description and recreation of the rope a dope I have ever read in a book Mailer does a great job of building suspense even though the outcome was already decided when the book came out by conveying the nervousness of the Ali camp many thought he would be killed in the ring by Foreman, including the author himself and the cockiness of the Foreman camp not very many of George s opponents got to see round numbers in the double digits when George was in his prime Its just that there were moments in the reading of the book where I wondered what a particular tangent was supposed to convey it felt like he was padding the story a bit too much in order to make it of a book and not a really long magazine article So 3 1 2 stars is about as best as I can do.On a side note, I know the Rumble in the Jungle is not the greatest boxing match in history, that title belongs to Ali vs Joe Smokin Joe Frazier and the Thrilla in Manilla or the classic good vs evil battles between Joe Lewis and Max Schmeling fighting for democracy against Hitler s Germany even though Schmeling wasn t a Nazi and hated what the Nazi party stood for and Joe Lewis was considered a second class citizen even though he fought for his country and represented America with class for the most part It is no longer the greatest upset in boxing history debatable and it was never really the greatest upset sports history in general, but when I was preparing this review which I ve had a lot of fun making I was surprised to come across a few websites that didn t even list the Rumble in the Jungle in their top 15 or their top 50 or that it was so low on this list 152 that they thought this guys fifteen seconds 120 and this technological revolution 52, 52 really were important sports moments.I guess that s why I still wish the Mayans were right Sorry for any bad links, I m still learning.

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