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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to bullfighting
Bullfighting is a fascinating cultural spectacle, it undeniably poses a range of difficult moral and political questions, yet it is little understood in the English-speaking world. In part this is due to the limited literature on the subject, so A. L. Kennedy's fine book On Bullfighting represents an important and illuminating study of its subject matter.
For readers...
Published on 8 Jan 2003 by Saint Etienne

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10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What it's NOT about, is bullfighting.
This is a book about the author. We open on her aborted suicide attempt, and slosh through more self-pitying introspection, with plenty more references to suicide, and end up with her goodbye to her dying Grandfather. This is quite moving, if you're into pathos; but irrelevant. It's a book that she was 'asked' to write, apparently...by whom, I can't imagine. She must have...
Published on 1 Nov 2000 by Neil French


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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to bullfighting, 8 Jan 2003
This review is from: On Bullfighting (Yellow Jersey Shorts) (Paperback)
Bullfighting is a fascinating cultural spectacle, it undeniably poses a range of difficult moral and political questions, yet it is little understood in the English-speaking world. In part this is due to the limited literature on the subject, so A. L. Kennedy's fine book On Bullfighting represents an important and illuminating study of its subject matter.
For readers who already know much about bullfighting, Kennedy’s book will tell them little or nothing new. It is best seen as an excellent introductory essay for beginners and as a thoughtful and reflective narrative for the more knowledgeable. There are many insights into Spain and Spanish culture, but Kennedy is never judgemental. The issue of animal rights is almost entirely and sensibly avoided – it may be a valid debate, but it is not the road to go down if a deeper understanding of bullfighting is desired.
Kennedy's account is a personal one as she weaves into her essay a large amount of autobiographical material, above all her self-doubts concerning her profession as a writer. Far from detracting from her subject, this approach enriches it impressively. She has successfully avoided producing either a dry historical analysis or a condescending consideration of the various rights and wrongs of the ritual; instead she makes a compelling attempt to probe into the inner meaning and mystery of the corrida. So strange is bullfighting to the outsider that the possibility of an objective inner meaning is probably unobtainable; Kennedy's subjective appreciation of bullfighting as akin to a religious experience is beautifully realized.
Elegantly written and frequently quite moving, On Bullfighting is an excellent book for anyone interested in this subject.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A moving and subjective introduction to bullfighting, 3 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: On Bullfighting (Paperback)
A.L. Kennedy is a Scottish authoress with no previous knowledge of the Spanish bullfight. She approaches this controversial topic with a completely open mind, and travels to Spain for a season of bullfights. This book is a moving and subjective view of bullfighting from a completely impartial introduction. She tackles all apects knowledgeably, and obviously gained an intensive knowledge of the subject during preparation for this book. At the end, the reader is still not sure where she stands morally and ethically on the subject, but she pulls no punches in her descriptions of the fights she witnesses. The book is beautifully written, and an excellent read. I strongly recommend it to all those who may have experienced a bullfight, or are about to, and may be struggling with their consciences over the morality of the spectacle.
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5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written, 22 July 2014
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I'd never read any AL Kennedy before, but I will certainly be reading more. I really liked the way that she interspersed her own frailties with her subject matter - making the book all the more accessible. I've only been to two corridas but her account of the 'messiness' - a mix of ballet, butchery, bravado and blood is just about how I remember it. Fascinating spectacle for a fascinating country.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Never judge a book by its cover!, 27 Nov 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: On Bullfighting (Hardcover)
I knew very little about bull fighting, and this gem of a little book not only taught me enough to recognise the cruel savage beauty held within bull fights, but also gave a fraught glimpse inside the author's state of mind. A L Kennedy has always written with great and touching emotional resonance, and here that skill is turned to the factual, and onto the author herself. This shouldn't just be seen as a brief study of bull-fighting, but a real attempt to understand what to me seems a strange, brutal act. Whether that is killing a helpless, tortured bull, or oneself, is open to question. Interesting, bleak and moving.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Balancing on a pinhead, 24 Feb 2013
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This review is from: On Bullfighting (Yellow Jersey Shorts) (Paperback)
A notable attempt to explain Tauromaquia to a culture which will never accept it. The quirky twisting of the strands of Kennedy's disasterous personal life, physical and psychic pain, with the technical information on the art and telling historical anecdotes makes for a fascinating tapestry which I felt explained the world of the bulls much more satisfyingly than Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strnagely moving, 9 Nov 2011
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Mr. P. G. Mccarthy (Southampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Bullfighting (Yellow Jersey Shorts) (Paperback)
A.L. Kennedy's book is a very good work of literature, and very revealing; there is however as much in this book about her state of her mind as there is about the corrida; but the book is not likely to add much to your knowledge of bullfighting. It has a lot of personal reflections about the corrida that you may find interesting, as well as very interesting biographical material on famous matadors (especially Juan Belmonte, and his well-known technique of drawing the bull close to his body). Kennedy favours a 'ritualistic' interpretation of the corrida and much of what she says supports this view. She also has some very interesting things to say about bull breeding, and the abuses employed to make bullfighting safer for the bullfighters. Hemingway, in his day, was aware of this and used the word 'decadent'. What was exciting, he thought, was that a man would actually get in a ring with a strong bull. Something seemed to be lost with the breeding of smaller and more docile bulls.

In this book there are also some quite philosophical reflections about risk-taking and facing death. The book begins with a personal account of her own aborted suicide attempt, and the theme of death is kept in focus throughout the book (with a brilliant account of the life and death of Lorca, whom she has an affinity with, as well as Joselito). The real success of this book is the beauty of the writing and the sensitivity of the writer. I found it strangely moving.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal odyssey to the bullfight., 1 Sep 2000
This review is from: On Bullfighting (Yellow Jersey Shorts) (Paperback)
In the world of bullfighting and of bullfighting books there are mostly two sorts of people - those for, and those against. Occasionally there appears that rare person who seems able to put aside any personal likes or dislikes and writes from the heart without preconceptions and judgement. Add to that an ability to describe scenes with such clarity that you can almost smell and taste them and you have a book that is more than travelogue, more than personal odyssey, it is a book that grips the reader with descriptions and scenes that leap from the page in all their clarity, colour and honesty. The descriptions of the writers personal physical and mental pain mixed with those of the bullring perfectly compliment each other in all their honesty. Although so well written it is almost impossible to chose any part over another two parts that particularly stand out are "The smell of young grass drifts up to me from the park and the air is also coloured very slightly with waking earth and sunny masonry" which is poetical in the way it brings the scene to life and a brief but insightful description of a Matador as "A killer of bulls, as opposed to a butcher, or murderer of bulls." This book is a must read and one of the very few books that I wanted to read again as soon as I had finished.
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10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What it's NOT about, is bullfighting., 1 Nov 2000
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This review is from: On Bullfighting (Hardcover)
This is a book about the author. We open on her aborted suicide attempt, and slosh through more self-pitying introspection, with plenty more references to suicide, and end up with her goodbye to her dying Grandfather. This is quite moving, if you're into pathos; but irrelevant. It's a book that she was 'asked' to write, apparently...by whom, I can't imagine. She must have a very odd publisher. "Here, you're filled with angst and self-loathing...go and write a book about something in which you have no interest." Strange request, one would have thought. The tone, when it does return to the title -subject, varies between condescending and pathetic. She appears to have been to four corridas, all in one season; hardly qualifying her to be an authority. You'll end up feeling very sorry for the poor woman, but you'll be no better-informed about bullfighting. She seems to veer between the predictable...and sometimes justifiable...distaste felt by those who mistakenly see it as a blood-sport , and the grudging respect for the matador which equally-often fills those same people with guilt. She ends up being fairly even-handed about the whole thing; but basically...one supposes because she's so tragically concerned with her own failures as a person...she just doesn't 'get it'. It doesn't seem to have touched her. Opponents of the bullfight will be disappointed that she has not concentrated more on the obvious arguments; aficionados will feel cheated that there's so little to justify the title. The glossary, at the back, is quite useful, for newcomers to the art. But it's really not a good enough reason to buy this rather sad little book.
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7 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars essay on bullfighting, 24 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: On Bullfighting (Yellow Jersey Shorts) (Paperback)
Read Joyce Carol Oates 'On Boxing' - an essay in which the author assumes a reticent, informed role and stays put. Then compare it with Kennedy's take on a subject that's equally shrouded by alluring macho charisma, and see where Kennedy fails - notably in her obtrusive authorial positioning. Do we really want to read about her suicidal thoughts, or her 'averagely broken heart'? No! We've bought this slim volume to read about bullfighting! Granted, she does cover the fascinating ins and outs of the sport but you have to wade through an onerous amount of stultifying journal writing to get to the heart of the matter. Other grouses are that the laboured description of the first bullfight doesn't work: the writing drags, the focus is overly narrative. There are times when you want Kennedy's prose to soar - for example when she's describing would-be toreros breaking into the hillside Andalucian ganaderias (bull ranches) to trial run their vocation; or when she visits Lorca's home, but her descriptive powers just ain't that tight. And, small point, she says she took her camera to the corridas, and that bullfighting lends itself to the static photographic image rather than the moving filmic one. So why don't we have some visuals in this book? If she's going to toy with narratorial standpoint, why not really toy with it? To conclude, at times, this is a tame take on an untame sport. Go back to Hemingway!
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ANIMAL RIGHTS FANS - DON'T GO ANY FURTHER, 2 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: On Bullfighting (Hardcover)
This is a very moving and affecting book and, since I am not really bothered about animal rights stuff, I found it fascinating. Give it a go if you are a real fan of Spain and Spanish culture
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On Bullfighting (Yellow Jersey Shorts)
On Bullfighting (Yellow Jersey Shorts) by A.L. Kennedy (Paperback - 6 July 2000)
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