Blending the passion of an enraptured fan with the measured eye of a seasoned journalist, free-lance sportswriter Schoenfeld (The New York Times, Sport, etc.) delivers a lyrical, unapologetic paean to bullfighting and its devoted followers. Set primarily in toreo-mad Sevilla, a contemporary city with its heart firmly in the past, the narrative, while impressive in sketching the history and current status of the sport, is overwhelmingly (and delightfully) a tribute to the unique relationship between fans and this oddly ``metaphysical'' sport. Unlike Hemingway's The Dangerous Summer (mentioned frequently, along with his Death in the Afternoon and James Michener's Iberia), Schoenfeld's study lacks a specific focus in terms of the bullfighting world, with the author meandering from bullfight to bullfight as he attempts to invoke the essence of that contest as experienced by those in its spell. Foremost are the dedicated fans, Schoenfeld included, enduring the tedium of uninspiring matches (``in contemporary bullfighting...quality is scarce'') in pursuit of one transcendent performance (``something unavailable within the bounds of daily life...the glimpse of immortality''). Among them is a strange coterie of Hemingwayesque foreign aficionados, deftly depicted, who follow the bulls throughout Spain each season. Center stage, of course, belongs to the matadors—skillful figuras, uneven young aspirants, and stubborn old-timers—alternately adored and reviled by the masses of ``taurine junkies.'' Rounding out the text is a skillful explanation of the distinct rituals and intricate maneuvers of the sport, pictured here as the ultimate high-stakes performance art. Although Schoenfeld will not convert any bullfight detractors- -true, crowds applaud particularly noble bulls, but even the best get no reprieve—he succeeds admirably on his own terms in offering an entrancing portrait of an unusual, ``passionately illogical'' world.
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