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Masterfully written, capturing Africa, the characters surrounding one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time, and an era pre
Internet and mobile phone. Mailer seems to have fallen out of favour in modern times, but a fine craftsmen of the English language, seamlessly weaving narrative as rich in substance and colour as you would find in any where.
Of course I like the description of the fight most of all, but overall a good book. It helps people who don't remember the way George Foreman and Muhammad Ali actually used to be thought of before they got old. Before Foreman became a nice guy who sold grills, and before Ali became famous for his philanthropy and valiant battle with Parkinson's syndrome.
The great triumph of Ali over Foreman in Zaire gets first class coverage by Norman Mailer. With a novelist's flair, Mailer reports on Ali's shocking upset win over George Foreman. Foreman had bludgeoned his way to an Olympic gold medal and then utterly demolished virtually every professional that came his way. Mailer brings us inside the chaos of Zaire, and we get a peek into the camps and personas of both Ali and Foreman. Oddly enough, the most interesting characters in the book are Drew Bundini Brown and the assorted fighters who served as sparring partners for Ali and Foreman. Ali was a huge underdog in the match against a young and terrifyingly destructive Foreman. But Mailer gives the listener a sense of the head games that Ali played on the mind of his less worldly opponent. The culmination of the book is the round by round deconstruction of the fight. Ali's victory seems very much in doubt throughout this book as Foreman stages small rallies and lands blows that would never have landed before in Ali's prime. The genius of Ali and Mailer captures this well, is that Ali made the adjustments and knew better than his corner that the tactics he adopted for Foreman would wear the younger man down.
This is a treat for the boxing fan. More though, it is a treat for the fan of good nonfiction. I have always felt that Mailer's fiction, with the exception of The Naked and the Dead, is quite overrated, but feel that his nonfiction writing (particularly on politics) will stand the test of time. I am not sure we will ever see boxing return to this type of prominence and perhaps it shouldn't. I do know that few writers will ever write this well about sports again.