Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pg. 99: Kasia Boddy's "Boxing: A Cultural History"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Kasia Boddy's Boxing: A Cultural History.

About the book, from the publisher:
Boxing is one of the oldest and most exciting of sports: its bruising and bloody confrontations have permeated Western culture since 3000 B.C. During that period, there has hardly been a time in which young men, and sometimes women, did not raise their gloved or naked fists to one other.

Throughout this history, potters, sculptors, painters, poets, novelists, cartoonists, song-writers, photographers and film-makers have been there to record and make sense of it all. In her encyclopaedic investigation of the shifting social, political and cultural resonances of this most visceral of sports, Kasia Boddy throws new light on an elemental struggle for dominance whose weapons are nothing more than fists. From Daniel Mendoza to Mike Tyson, boxers have embodied and enacted our anxieties about race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Looking afresh at everything from neo-classical sculpture to hip-hop lyrics, Boddy explores the way in which the history of boxing has intersected with the history of mass media, and sheds new light on the work of such diverse figures as Henry Fielding and Spike Lee, Charlie Chaplin and Philip Roth, James Joyce and Mae West, Bertolt Brecht and Charles Dickens. This all-encompassing study tells us just how and why boxing has mattered so much to so many.
Among the praise for Boxing: A Cultural History:
"A treasure trove for boxing historians and aficionados ... At nearly five hundred densely packed pages...Boxing: A Cultural History would seem to include everything that has ever been written, depicted or in any way recorded about boxing.... To read Boddy’s book is to confront dozens – hundreds? – of inspired mini-essays."
–Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books

"Boddy seldom misses a trick; her choices of what to include are invariably spot-on. Her subject is the interface between culture in its broadest sense and boxing, and the breadth and rigour of her research is astonishing ... she is just as sure-footed on the intricacies of boxing as in their depiction in literature, painting, film and television. She is clearly in love with the sport.
Financial Times

"Boddy’s book is a superb work of scholarship, spanning ancient Greece to Mike Tyson. Its reproduced lithographs and colour plates make the book, in its way, a handsome work of art in itself... Boddy referees this heavyweight 15-rounder with elegance, aplomb and rigour."
–Jonathan Rendall, New Statesman

"Boddy...intelligently takes up – via art, literature, film, and the media – the many issues that have historically veined the sport: 'nationality, class, race, ethnicity, religion, politics, and different versions of masculinity,' plus dialectics like 'brawn versus brains, boastfulness versus modesty, youth versus experience.' Her reach is considerable, but so is her grasp. The result is a sweeping critical history and a perfect power-to-weight ratio."
Atlantic Monthly

"Splendid and surprising.... The illustrations in Boxing alone are worth the price of the book.... The author's research is thorough, and her writing is sharp and crisp. Boxing easily pierces the aforementioned haze that surrounds the sport and gets to the crooked heart of the allure.... A perfect, polished frame."
Chicago Tribune

"Boddy is the kind of writer whose intelligence can bring together and reveal the patterns and resonances between such unlikely contenders as Plato, Scorsese, Fielding, Dickens and Keith Haring. It's a beautifully illustrated, expert, readable and startling expression of the dualities of all things."
–Ali Smith, author of The Accidental
Learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website and Kasia Boddy's faculty webpage.

Boddy teaches in the English Department at University College London and has published widely on British and American literature and film.

The Page 99 Test: Boxing: A Cultural History.

--Marshal Zeringue