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Ali: A Life: Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2017 Hardcover – 3 Oct 2017
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'Jonathan Eig's Ali: A Life is the business - 640 pages of patient scholarship and intelligent reassessment written in crackly prose and dancing gleefully and illuminatingly through the well-documented highlights while never shying away from the less glorious shadows.' (Giles Smith The Times)
'A fine piece of journalism of the best American kind...wrought with sound judgment and rigorous prose. Ali's life is dissected with the detachment of a pathologist, and the picture isn't always a pretty one... In 50 or 100 years, people might wonder what all the fuss was about. Muhammad Ali: was there really such a character? They should read this book and learn that yes, there was, for all his flaws.' (Nick Pitt Sunday Times)
'This richly researched, sympathetic yet unsparing portrait of a controversial figure...could not have come at a more appropriate time... As Muhammad Ali's life was an epic of a life, so Ali: A Life is an epic of a biography... Even the familiar may be glanced from a new perspective in Eig's fluent prose.' (Joyce Carol Oates New York Times Book Review)
'Finally, after so many works focusing on this fight or that, the whole man, his whole life, is presented here' (Ken Burns)
'Goes deeper and uncovers more than any Ali biography has before’ (Esquire)
'Jonathan Eig’s Ali: A Life is the first comprehensive biography worthy of this titanic figure... [Eig] vigorously narrates the story of the man who transformed the landscape of race and sports... Eig also paints Ali’s bouts with vivid detail and captivating sweep... Ali stirs together the sweet and the spicy, the gifts and the failings, the charm and the rage, the grace and the greed, the pride and the ego. Together, they made Ali the transcendent athlete of his age.' (Aram Goudsouzian Washington Post)
'Does a remarkable job of synthesising the warring elements of Ali's life. Above all, it delivers a portrait of a hero that does not ignore his all too human flaws. This biography...ends in darkness & melancholy. Fortunately, the earlier chapters dazzle us.' (Clive Davis The Times)
'Ali's extraordinary story, in all its complexity, is told in Jonathan Eig's excellent Ali: A Life' (Martin Chilton Daily Telegraph)
'There have been countless tomes about the iconic fighter, of course, but Eig's is the definitive work to date.' (Sports Illustrated Sports Book of the Year)
'Stunning new biography...Ali is a big, fat, entertaining and illuminating read...What makes Eig’s book stand out is its broad scope, its detailed reportage and its lively, cinematic writing.' (Laurie Hertzel Star Tribune)
From the Inside Flap
The most comprehensive and definitive biography of Muhammad Ali that has ever been published, based on more than 500 interviews with those who knew him best, with many dramatic new discoveries about his life and career.
When the frail, trembling figure of Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta in 1996, a TV audience of up to 3 billion people was once again gripped by the story of the world's most famous sporting icon. The man who had once been reviled for his refusal to fight for his country and for his fast-talking denunciation of his opponents was now almost universally adored, the true cost of his astonishing boxing career clear to see.
In Jonathan Eig's ground-breaking biography, backed up with much detailed new research specially commissioned for this book, we get a stunning portrait of one of the most significant personalities of the second half of the twentieth century. We are not only taken inside the ring for some of the most famous bouts in boxing history, we also learn about his personal life, his finances, his faith and the moments when the first signs of his physical decline began to show. Ali was a symbol of freedom and courage, a hero to many, but this is also a very personal story of a warrior who vanquished every opponent but was finally brought down by his own stubborn refusal to quit.
An epic tale of a fighter who became the world's most famous pacifist, Ali: A Life does full justice to an extraordinary man.
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To be honest I feel the author has produced a decent enough book, however if you've read several of the many Ali biographies currently on the market you will more than likely get the feeling that you've read all this before, while at the same time notice strange omissions such as all of Ali's fights in the UK! So all in all, despite its size, the book doesn't really add anything to the huge body of knowledge that already exists about Muhammad and in my view there are better biographies out there.
Despite, or because of, the fact that it’s an unauthorized biography Eig has been very industrious in chasing down materials. Thus in addition to trawling through the secondary literature and newly available FBI and Justice Department files he’s conducted more than 500 interviews with more than 200 individuals, many of whom were as close to Ali as it was as possible to be, including his three surviving wives and his managers. Eig has, moreover, obtained access to the original audiotapes used for ‘The Greatest: My Own Story’; has engaged speech scientists at Arizona State University to analyse Ali’s TV appearances so as to chart the impact of his boxing on his cognitive skills; and has even got researchers to watch every one of Ali’s recorded fights so as to count the number of punches he threw and received (the latter totalling “around 200,000 blows to the body and head”).
The boxing fan may, nevertheless, note some omissions, such as Ali nicknaming George Chuvalo ‘the Washerwoman’ and Chuvalo responding by dressing as a washerwoman to challenge Ali in person: the only instance of Ali being successfully upstaged. More significantly, there is no mention of Ernie Terrell’s claim, when they fought in February 1967, that Ali had deliberately jammed a thumb in his eye. Instead Eig devotes all his energies to defending Ali from the charge that he deliberately did not finish off Terrell so that he could administer the “torture” that he’d threatened beforehand because Terrell was an “Uncle Tom” who persisted in calling him Cassius Clay.
Indeed, if one were to criticise this book it would chiefly be on the grounds that Eig is so enamoured of his subject that this sometimes skews his presentation of the facts.
In short, this is a substantial book and a very rewarding read, which is right to put the issue of race at the centre of Ali’s story, but whilst doing a very good job it falls just short of greatness, for the reasons given above.
sum effect of Mr Eig's book -- and I'm sure Mr Eig would believe
otherwise -- is to unintentionally reduce Ali, to make him less than
he was. For me, Ali's humanity gets lost inside of this book's pages.
Mr Eig's biographer's lens is small; you don't experience Ali's life
in Eig's writing.
For a deep, rich, intimate telling of Muhammad Ali, the human being
(who Mr. Eig never once met, by the way), far and away the best --
maybe the only -- book is APPROACHING ALI, by Davis Miller.
Great literary writers such as Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, Tom
Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson have written about Ali time and again.
Not one of them, including biographer Eig, has written about Ali as
profoundly, deeply and truthfully as Davis Miller.
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