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12 ROUNDS IN LO'S GYM

BOXING AND MANHOOD IN APPALACHIA

An affecting testimonial to the power of action and of storytelling—to say nothing of a good right hook—to make real change.

Spirited memoir of life in a West Virginia backwater, where fight clubs keep youngsters from going off the rails.

It was a kid named Noah Milton—or maybe “his name was Noah and he was from Milton, West Virginia”—who was, writes Snyder (Rhetoric and Writing/Siena Coll.; The Rhetoric of Appalachian Identity, 2014), “the first person to kick my ass.” It wouldn’t be the last ass-kicking he received at the hands of beefy rednecks while standing up to his opponents in the rings of his father’s gym. He got knocked down, and he got up, always remembering his dad’s advice: “when you crawl through the ropes, you can’t hide from the truth,” whether it reveals you to be a fighter or a coward. Steeped in English literature, Snyder views the contest through a refined lens. While thinking of Beowulf, for instance, he recounts one neighbor, a “dope-smoking hippy” who bought the ring where Larry Holmes fought a storied bout, then had it painted red. A college friend is likened to Frankenstein’s monster, and he to the good doctor himself, since Snyder, delivered from temptation by virtue of logging time wailing the tar out of his contemporaries, was teaching the young man his tricks. “He was the type of guy who’d find a fight if one didn’t come looking for him,” writes the author appreciatively. Snyder has succeeded in melding the worlds of literature and the sweet science. As he writes, his first college essay was on how Joe Louis figured in Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, even as his father, who hit on the idea of boxing as a means of warding off juvenile delinquency, earned honor for his contributions at Lo’s Gym. Though the circumstances and surroundings are grim in meth-lab coal country, Snyder retains a pleasing but not Pollyannaish optimism throughout.

An affecting testimonial to the power of action and of storytelling—to say nothing of a good right hook—to make real change.

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-946684-12-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: West Virginia Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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