Essays on an Array of Topics Early's Collection Is Rich, Insightful

By Schapiro, Reviewed Nancy | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 5, 1995 | Go to article overview

Essays on an Array of Topics Early's Collection Is Rich, Insightful


Schapiro, Reviewed Nancy, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


THE CULTURE OF BRUISING Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture By Gerald Early 285 pages, Ecco Press, $25

GERALD EARLY, a professor of African and Afro-American studies at Washington University, is fast becoming one of America's pre-eminent essayists. In this collection of his writings he shows himself to be a poet as well.

The book is divided into three sections, each prefaced with a poem. The first section, titled "Prizefighting and the Modern World," begins with a poem by that title that indicates Early's method of combining facts with fiction, transforming statistics into metaphor, narrative into critical comment.

The poem portrays a fighter reflecting on life inside the ring, how easy it was to "get up to get beat up again./But the falling down was hard, a floppy descent from/Not grace and all that but maintaining, hanging on./So long to go down and so sweet and peaceful."

He imagines a different ending, wretched, stinking, "in a dirty bed of filthy linen." This too ends on an ironically positive note, "with the assurance that/in the modern world everything counts but nothing matters."

I must admit that even though I'm a sucker for metaphorical transformations I found some of the essays in the first section rather slow-going. That's an admission of my own ignorance of fighting and fighters. There were too many names, too many allusions to specific bouts, specific boxers, specific writers and their accounts. …

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