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The Fight (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Norman Mailer
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 July 2000 Penguin Modern Classics

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 Classics.

Norman Mailer's The Fight focuses on the 1975 World 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 egos.

Norman Mailer (1923-2007) 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 Dead (1948). In 1955 he co-founded The Village Voice, and was the editor of Dissent from 1952 until 1963. Among his other works are The Armies of the Night (1968) The Executioner's Song (1980), both of which won Mailer a Pulitzer Prize.

If 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'


Frequently Bought Together

The Fight (Penguin Modern Classics) + When We Were Kings [DVD] [1997]
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (27 July 2000)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0141184140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141184142
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Entertaining... Mailer continues his familiar shadow-boxing with the ineffable." -- Time In 1975 in Kinshasa, Zaire, at the virtual center of Africa, two African American boxers were paid five million dollars apiece to fight each other until one was declared winner. One was Muhammad Ali, the aging but irrepressible "professor of boxing" who vowed to reclaim the championship he had lost. The other was George Foreman, who was as taciturn as Ali was voluble and who kept his hands in his pockets "the way a hunter lays his rifle back into its velvet case." Observing them was Norman Mailer, whose grasp of the titanic battle's feints and stratagems -- and whose sensitivity to their deeper symbolism -- make this book a masterpiece of the literature of sport. Whether he is analyzing the fighters' moves, interpreting their characters, or weighing their competing claims on the African and American souls, Mailer is a commentator of unparalleled energy, acumen, and audacity -- and su

About the Author

Norman Mailer was born in 1923 and went to Harvard when he was sixteen. He majored in engineering, but it was while he was at university that he became interested in writing; he published his first story when he was eighteen. He was winner of the National Book Award for Arts and Letters in 1969 and of the Pulitzer Prize twice, once in 1969 and again in 1980. Norman Mailer was married six times and had nine children. He died in November 2007. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful view, before the storm 14 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Anyone who has witnessed this greatest of fights and knows something of the build-up to this epic encounter will revel in this book. I found Mailers style as hard as Foremans head in the first few chapters, but stick at it, the rewards are there as the tension grows. Mailers description of the mood of each camp is the real gem, gradually building up to a titanic conclusion. Im not really a boxing fan, but I am fasinated by the whole Rumble in the Jungle saga. Read it before watching the fight.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading 18 Jun 2001
By A Customer
A superb snapshot of a particular time and place; this is written in typical Norman Mailer style -allowing the reader amazing insight at times and a very personal, distanced view at others. Ali comes across as the great figure his reputation implies -even Mailer is humbly respectful in his presence. I would suggest reading David Remnick's equally impressive 'King of the world' first, as Remnick's book charts the 'back story' of how the heavyweight belt passed from Floyd Patterson to Sonny Liston and finally Ali. Then finish by watching the Oscar-winning documentary 'When we were Kings' -which of course, features Norman Mailer himself (Ideally, get the DVD, which features the entire Rumble In The Jungle fight as a bonus).
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So much narcissism! 14 Sep 2009
By Rusty
This book documents a rightly revered moment in boxing history. Mailer's blow-by-blow account of the fight itself is exhilarating and works as a great companion piece for all eight rounds of the original TV footage. But the showdown between Ali and Foreman doesn't arrive until the very end of the narrative. Almost everything up to that point is a protracted, high-brow love letter from Mailer to himself.

I found this hard to forgive. The question needs to be asked: who was Mailer writing this for? The genuine boxing fans? If so, he alienates them totally with vast literary pretentions. Was he aiming it at middle-class America, hoping to shed some civilised light on what many denounce as a barbaric sport? He fails on that count by expecting prior boxing knowledge from his audience. Was he simply writing it for his journalist cronies, who he name-checks assiduously (George Plimpton, Hunter Thompson, etc) during their all-expenses-paid jolly in Kinshasa's casinos, restaurants and bars?

Or was he just writing it for himself? There's a mammoth amount of ego on display. Speaking about his own exploits in the third person, putting himself in the shoes of Joseph Conrad, inferring that he had a personal part to play in Ali's good luck and success... it's an ugly style of writing - conceited, pompous and vain.

Maybe he felt he had to match the giant egos of two Heavyweight Champions. Personally, I think it was the wrong approach to his subject. There's far too much Norman Mailer crowding for attention on these pages... like he's standing in the seat in front of you, spoiling your view of the fight.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great non-fiction 14 Mar 2002
One of the greatest sportsmen of our world, and this was possibly one of the greatest moments of his sporting career. This book is not just about a fight but about Africa, the nature of men, race and racism and superhuman achievement.
Mailer is completely honest throughout the book, and sometimes what he says, particularly about race, can be a little shocking. But the author is being honest with us about what he thinks, and his thoughts are interesting and thought-provoking.
The image of Ali, bouncing off the ropes for the first 6 rounds despite promising the world he was going to dance is vividly painted. The description of Foreman's training on the heavy bag, which he hit so hard he left dent in it, is close to mind when in the later chapters ali is absorbing those same punches.
The book also deals with the author's own celebrity, and makes this a very personal account of a great moment.
I left this book with one overpowering feeling - i wish i had been there.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A collision of egos inside and outside the ring 12 Nov 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Fight is a vivid account of the 1974 world heavyweight boxing match in Zaire, billed as The Rumble in the Jungle, between George Foreman and Mohammad Ali. Mailer writes about Africa with more than a nod to Joseph Conrad, and writes about boxing with all the sweep and authority that Hemingway showed on bullfighting, but this book is about more than boxing. Mailer, a white Jew from New York, confronts his prejudices about blacks and about Africa, and while this seems less than remarkable now, it is easy to forget that mild racism was not only normal then among English-speaking whites, but was in fact the received wisdom of the time. This book was therefore a work of some courage and risk for a writer of Norman Mailer's stature.

The use of the third person to describe the author is strange at first, and it seems possible that Mailer's ego might overshadow even the monstrous ego of Ali. But what emerges is more sensitive than that. Ali is portrayed as an aging prodigy tortured by doubt and surrounded by a retinue of oddballs, and Mailer succeeds in first isolating and then overcoming his buried prejudice and superstition.

This is a powerful and at times moving book, and I would recommend it to all, including those who are uninterested or even repelled by the sport of boxing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The liasion of two kings.
The master of words takes on the greatest athlete of all times. An utterly subjective view on the regaining of the hevyweight crown by the submissive that the US had spew out. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Orvar Jansson
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read
Norman has a great way of writing a story and this book was a wonderful insight it the life story of the greatest
Published 14 months ago by kvarley
4.0 out of 5 stars Great journalism.
Great journalism by Mailer on one of the greatest sporting contests of all time. A must for fans of quality reportage, sports writing or boxing history.
Published on 11 Oct 2010 by Paul Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
Although Mailer's 3rd person treatment of himself is clearly the product of an explosive and gluttonous ego, it does, in parts, allow him to also speak about himself with more... Read more
Published on 14 Aug 2010 by L
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard work to start with, but perservere
You need to concentrate a bit, but well worth it. Hard work to start with, but it is well worth it in the end. The observations during the fight itself are fantastic. Read more
Published on 11 April 2010 by Dennis King
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant...
Having watched the dvd When We Were Kings and having enjoyed in particular the verbal contributions from Norman Mailer, I had to buy this book. I wasnt disappointed.... Read more
Published on 2 Nov 2009 by Roberto
2.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not 'the Greatest'
I was really looking forward to this book as I've started to read up on the life and career of Muhammad Ali. Read more
Published on 20 Oct 2009 by A. J. Bradley
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
This was the first Norman Mailer book I read, and as such did not really know what to expect. It is certainly clear right from the start that he has a very keen eye on the sport. Read more
Published on 19 Oct 2009 by Treefingers
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly surprised
I bought the book afetr having read several Ali biographies, and din't realise this concentrated only on the Rumble in the Jungle. Read more
Published on 24 Sep 2009 by Mr. Martin Heppenstall
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit poetic and rambling for my taste but brilliant in parts
A bit poetic and rambling for my taste but brilliant in parts - at times Mailer is more apt to put himself at the centre of the story and be a bit self absorbed - going off on a... Read more
Published on 16 Aug 2009 by Asmodeous
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