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The Fight (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 27 Jul 2000

3.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (27 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141184140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141184142
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"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 (1923-2007) was one of the great post-War American writers, both as a novelist and as one of the key inventors of the New Journalism. His books include the novels The Naked and the Dead, The Deer Park, Why Are We in Vietnam?, The Executioner's Song and Harlot's Ghost and the non-fiction works The Armies of the Night, A Fire on the Moon (published in the USA as Of a Fire on the Moon) and The Fight. He won the National Book Award and twice won the Pulitzer Prize.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Could have been a great read, unfortuneltey the author is to busy trying to come across as clever as opposed writing a good book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mailer at his best, human and observant,, one of the 20th centuries best writers, totally readable and deeply intelligent .
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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 honesty and insight than the fragile nature of self-opinion often allows.

So although many reviewers are giving him a hard time for this it should be remembered that any type of writing which challenges the norm and provides a novel way of storytelling must have some inherent value. Even if you don't particularly warm to it - although personally I found it interesting and unobtrusive - then at least it will have provided a break from the 'traditional' way of narration.

As this was essentially a sports book I didn't want to devote to much time to the more philosophical sections which are interspersed throughout the story. Because of my lack of effort I can't fairly criticize these sections; I found them to be vague and unengaging but quite possibly with a bit more concentration their value would have been revealed.

Philosophy aside the book was skillfully crafted with some unique and intelligent use of language. Although this was my first Mailer book, his idiosyncracies reminded me of Amis (Martin) in their salience compared to many authors. Mailer give some great insights into boxing life which are only available to someone who enjoyed such proximity to the two fighters; however the book also seems to spend a little too long in building up to the fight. In the three days it took to read the book, two were spent reaching October 30th, whilst only one was spent consuming the actual fight. The prelude was not unenjoyable but certainly more inconsistent that the final third was.
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Format: Paperback
Norman Mailer isn't as good a writer as he thinks (even Hemingway, his hero, isn't that great) and inevitably there is a lot of padding in this, the longest Big Fight despatch ever. Pretty much every Westerner present in Zaire for 'the Rumble in the Jungle' comes in for a digression. Then, when he comes to the actual fight, he runs up against the fact (which also hampered Hemingway) that in these cases a picture is far better than a thousand words.

But the bigger problem is that sport isn't art; if you try to explain one in terms of the other, you can end up looking like you don't understand either. When nights like this happen they can seem like a big deal - and maybe they are, though their significance in the grand scheme of things is so infinitesimally small. But you can't tell it, you can only experience it; you can communicate only a small fraction of what it felt like to you. Mailer takes his own excitement and objectifies it as Muhammed Ali's genius. Was he a genius? Was he a political hero, or even martyr, as someone else said? Or simply a boxer with talent, but also a big ego and a flair for self-promotion, who knew how to ride his luck? The fact that Mailer compares this fight, approvingly, to a book that was merely Joyce's 'prentice piece, makes you wonder whether he has an adequate yardstick by which to measure.

All the same, this book is just about worthwhile for its portraits of the fighters in their quieter moments; Ali particularly seeming far more interesting and sympathetic away from the cameras.
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Format: Paperback
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. His description of the fight is like no other you will ever read or see, and thus would recommend this book to any fan of boxing or even sport in general.

Once you reach the fight itself, this is a gripping read.

There is also some very interesting insights into the characters and personalities on the scene, like Drew 'Bundini' Brown in Ali's corner who provides much amusement with his 'tête à têtes' with Forman's crew in the hotel lobby. You will also not see a better portrait of Don King in all the years since this was written. I also felt the portrayal of Ali interesting - rather than merely hero-worshiping him, the book deconstructs some of the myth which had grown up around him.

It would be wrong to say that this is simply a book about the fight, however. It would be better described as Norman Mailer's trip to Africa for the fight. Somewhat irritatingly, he writes himself a starring role in this story, and refers to himself in the third person throughout. For me at least, this device only serves to add to Mailer's clearly excessive ego, and is wholly unnecessary for the story itself. In fact, I am only giving this 4 stars instead of 5 because it annoyed me so much.

In short - this is definitely worth a read, but try to tune out for Mailer's constant egotistical and 'philosophical' ramblings as much as you can.
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