The author lands verbal jabs that deftly complement the often ruthless action he describes.

In the Cheap Seats


A collection of essays explores the “sweet science” of boxing and its unique culture.

Capturing the “poetry” of one of the most brutal of sports might seem like an oxymoron. But Toledo’s (The Gods of War, 2014) book is a largely successful attempt to do just that for boxing, his collection of essays a testament to both the primeval power and the pugilistic purity of the “sweet science.” “The iconic figure of the boxer speaks to anyone who struggles; which is to say he speaks to all of us,” Toledo writes. “Prone, he tells us we’re not alone. Rising, whether in victory or just to beat the count, he tells us we can too.” The author provides vivid accounts of fights featuring everyone from legendary champions such as Roy Jones, Manny Pacquiao, and Floyd Mayweather to lesser-known boxers like “Hammerin’ Hank” Lundy, Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin, and “the American Nightmare.” Toledo is as adept with technical analysis—the master boxer “uses pizazz punctuated by jabs to con his opponent into a pace and rhythm designed to sap his spirit”—as he is with physical description. One out-of-shape fighter’s torso “had the consistency of a week-old party balloon,” Ukrainian heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has “the face of Kiev or Peski between shellings,” and a welterweight is “short and wide like an image in a funhouse mirror.” The author also sees the metaphorical possibilities of boxing, comparing the violent history of New York City to the “visceral” style of Jack Dempsey. “The city’s aggression is innate....In NYC, everyone is Dempsey,” he writes. In changing the narrative of a fight, an aging Mexican boxer “suggested that we can change our own narratives—our own ultimately dismal expectations—as we contend half blind against mauling life and marching time.” In these well-written, sharply observed essays, the author may sometimes go a bit overboard in his ruminations, suggesting at one point that “the boxer is a proxy preparing the way for all of us.” But with his passion and precision, Toledo becomes a worthy successor to such vaunted boxing writers as A.J. Liebling and Bert Sugar.

The author lands verbal jabs that deftly complement the often ruthless action he describes.

Pub Date: Feb. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9543924-6-8

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Tora Book Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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