Joyce Carol Oates is also author of the novel "Marya: A Life", "A Garden of Earthly Delights" and "Them", winner of the 1970 National Book Award.
Oates loves boxing, especially the sight of wounded fighters, which she calls "cruelly beautiful." Her musings, however, will please neither litterateurs nor devotees of the "Sweet Science." It is claimed that no sport is more "powerfully homoerotic" than boxing, an absurdity underlined by an inane sub-Nietzschean definition of homosexuality to one man "overcoming" the other "in an exhibition of superior strength and will." After explaining that boxing is sui generis and teaches us nothing about life, the author goes on to call it an "agon," drawing from the ancient Greek drama and the criticism of Harold Bloom. Skilled fights are compared to good performances of Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier." There is a brief survey of books on the sport, but from an oddball perspective. The only really good writer on the subject, A.J. Liebling, is trashed for trying to "sell" boxing to New Yorker readers. The statistic that 87 percent of fighters suffer brain damage, no matter whether they have been successful or not, is lightly tossed aside. Other serious objections to the sport are as carelessly dealt with. The vital message here is that it feels good to see two men bloody each other. The loser? The reader by a TKO. (Kirkus Reviews)