By Ben Cohen
One of the best books I ever read on boxing was 'The Fight' by the recently deceased literary giantNorman Mailer. It was a egocentric, brilliantly written third person account of the fight between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa in 1974, and a book that helped spawn my career in boxing journalism. Whether you are a boxing fan or not, it is certainly worth reading.
Married six times (and having stabbed one of them) Mailer was something of a scoundrel, but also one of the most prominent American authors in history. He wrote on a diverse array of topics with a unique style and ability to capture the essence of his subject. Books like 'The Naked and the Dead', and 'The Armies of the Night' won him national recognition and Pullitzer prizes, but also radically changed traditional journalism. 'The Fight' is an actual account of his time in Kinshasa, but he describes himself in the third person that adds a sense of drama and lucidity that could not be replicated by traditional reporting.
Here he is on history, love and America:
"We didn't win the Cold War, we were just a big bank that bankrupted a
smaller bank because we had an arms race that wiped the Russians out."
"It's not a good idea to put your wife into a novel; not your latest wife anyway."
"America is a hurricane, and the only people who do
not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid and smug
White Protestants who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big
Although a troubled and somewhat controversial person, Mailer will be sorely missed as a national figure. His literary contributions were nothing short of brilliant, and his words gave blueprint and inspiration for a new, exciting genre of writing.
To read an excellent obituary on Mailer in The New York Times, click here.