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The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture

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"An essay must do more than say something," writes Gerald Early; "It must be something in its own right." The Culture of Bruising is Gerald Early's long-awaited sequel to his award-winning first volume of essays Tuxedo Junction and, in the same spirit, he explores not only a variety of subjects but the form of the essay itself. Early's cultural ruminations on the sport of "An essay must do more than say something," writes Gerald Early; "It must be something in its own right." The Culture of Bruising is Gerald Early's long-awaited sequel to his award-winning first volume of essays Tuxedo Junction and, in the same spirit, he explores not only a variety of subjects but the form of the essay itself. Early's cultural ruminations on the sport of prize-fighting form the intellectual core and central metaphor of this book. That is to say, his subject, when writing about boxing, is not just the culture of bruising or the world of the prizefighter but rather the culture as bruising - as a structure of opposition against the individual. Early's subjects range far and wide - essays in which he shares with us his considerable insights and expertise on such various subjects as multiculturalism and Black History Month, baseball, racist memorabilia, performance magic and race, Malcolm X, early jazz music, and finally, the raising of daughters. In every essay the form strengthens the content and gracefully balances the elements of research and opinion. Early becomes by turns the critic, skeptic, autobiographer, biographer, storyteller, cultural and literary scholar, detached citizen, and bemused parent. He integrates these voices with the skill of an accomplished choirmaster. The Culture of Bruising is an important and captivating collection of essays that treats issues of justice and racism in the context of sports, music, and other activities Americans value most. Early is a vigilant and highly sensitive observer of our culture, a culture based on the paradoxical combination of self-destruction and violence with personal empowerment and triumph.


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"An essay must do more than say something," writes Gerald Early; "It must be something in its own right." The Culture of Bruising is Gerald Early's long-awaited sequel to his award-winning first volume of essays Tuxedo Junction and, in the same spirit, he explores not only a variety of subjects but the form of the essay itself. Early's cultural ruminations on the sport of "An essay must do more than say something," writes Gerald Early; "It must be something in its own right." The Culture of Bruising is Gerald Early's long-awaited sequel to his award-winning first volume of essays Tuxedo Junction and, in the same spirit, he explores not only a variety of subjects but the form of the essay itself. Early's cultural ruminations on the sport of prize-fighting form the intellectual core and central metaphor of this book. That is to say, his subject, when writing about boxing, is not just the culture of bruising or the world of the prizefighter but rather the culture as bruising - as a structure of opposition against the individual. Early's subjects range far and wide - essays in which he shares with us his considerable insights and expertise on such various subjects as multiculturalism and Black History Month, baseball, racist memorabilia, performance magic and race, Malcolm X, early jazz music, and finally, the raising of daughters. In every essay the form strengthens the content and gracefully balances the elements of research and opinion. Early becomes by turns the critic, skeptic, autobiographer, biographer, storyteller, cultural and literary scholar, detached citizen, and bemused parent. He integrates these voices with the skill of an accomplished choirmaster. The Culture of Bruising is an important and captivating collection of essays that treats issues of justice and racism in the context of sports, music, and other activities Americans value most. Early is a vigilant and highly sensitive observer of our culture, a culture based on the paradoxical combination of self-destruction and violence with personal empowerment and triumph.

37 review for The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    I'm not the biggest sports fan in the world, but I relish Gerald Early's writings about athletics in general and boxing in particular. His observations on Jake LaMotta allowed me to understand why the film Raging Bull never added up, and his other essays never give off the slumming intellectual vibe that afflicts so much writing on the subject. Not all of the essays are about sports, but all are good enough to make me wish Gerald Early were a quicker, more productive writer. I'm not the biggest sports fan in the world, but I relish Gerald Early's writings about athletics in general and boxing in particular. His observations on Jake LaMotta allowed me to understand why the film Raging Bull never added up, and his other essays never give off the slumming intellectual vibe that afflicts so much writing on the subject. Not all of the essays are about sports, but all are good enough to make me wish Gerald Early were a quicker, more productive writer.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Bateman

    The titular essay, the pieces on Liston/Patterson and LaMotta/Graziano, and "House of Robinson, House of Ruth" are all excellent. Early is one of America's best African-American critics, but he's overlooked for many of the same reasons Armond White and Wesley Morris are: they're just not willing to clown it up for white audiences, as Cornel West seems all too willing to do. The titular essay, the pieces on Liston/Patterson and LaMotta/Graziano, and "House of Robinson, House of Ruth" are all excellent. Early is one of America's best African-American critics, but he's overlooked for many of the same reasons Armond White and Wesley Morris are: they're just not willing to clown it up for white audiences, as Cornel West seems all too willing to do.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Hirsch

    How many essayists can set their ken on subjects as diverse as Black Nationalism, Shirley Temple movies, the life of a professional magician, and prizefighting, and somehow have the work feel coherent and every section related and complimentary one to the other? The list is pretty short, like one writer long short, by my count. Gerald Early's "The Culture of Bruising" features dense, intense ruminations and sometimes painful insights that usually take the conceits and surfaces of various subjects How many essayists can set their ken on subjects as diverse as Black Nationalism, Shirley Temple movies, the life of a professional magician, and prizefighting, and somehow have the work feel coherent and every section related and complimentary one to the other? The list is pretty short, like one writer long short, by my count. Gerald Early's "The Culture of Bruising" features dense, intense ruminations and sometimes painful insights that usually take the conceits and surfaces of various subjects, and begin to peel away the layers until something raw and unavoidably real is laid bare. He questions not only the motives of others, but seeks out the Other in himself, rigorously challenging his own beliefs about what it means to be a man, to be black, to be human. Insight like this is rare, and to be treasured when encountered. But as great as he is, or can be, the density of the prose sometimes has the feeling of obscurantism, the cycling past three or four sufficient words to lock on the most esoteric option available. We're all entitled to our stylistic quirks, but there's a difference between larding and seasoning, and reading an essay versus reading a book of essays started to tell by about the halfway mark. And because Early is such a good writer he can usually coax a reader into being passionate (or at least curious) about a subject for which they otherwise have no interest, but those aforementioned Shirley Temple movies and the piece about the behind-the-scenes machinations at a magicians' convention...well, let's just say there aren't enough pot brownies in the world to make me care. Some may also find Dr. Early's iconoclasm (or at least headbutting) with Malcolm X to be a bridge too far, since (much as Larry Holmes is the shadow to Muhammad Ali), Malcolm Little has sort of become a shadow avatar to those black Americans who find Martin Luther King's accomodationist politics to be to eerily similar in register to the mewling of a supplicant begging for alms. But Early never stakes out a far-afield claim without first taking you on a journey to show you how he arrived at that lonely terminus well beyond the place where the busses stop. Yes, he writes about race, but he doesn't do the "blackity-black" as someone called the parlor trick of insulting rooms full of white liberals for money (Ta Nehisi-Coats is one such party magician) nor does he excoriate his brothers and sisters to fight the power tooth-and-nail in the streets while enjoying a sinecure in some ivy-clad turret (like a bunch of professors who shall remain nameless). No, this is a lonely, brilliant man who has found his own way to write about and think about a range of subjects one is not used to seeing marshaled together all at once. Recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    National Book Critics Circle

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Fitzgerald

  6. 4 out of 5

    John

  7. 5 out of 5

    Superpook

  8. 4 out of 5

    Craig Brownlie

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tana

  10. 5 out of 5

    Walton

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bauer

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jesús

  13. 4 out of 5

    David

  14. 5 out of 5

    Justin

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  16. 4 out of 5

    Arjun Parikh

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jezy

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Goode

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Williams

  20. 4 out of 5

    Donna

  21. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Price

  23. 4 out of 5

    Walter

  24. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

  25. 5 out of 5

    Yinzadi

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael Borshuk

  27. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jo

  30. 4 out of 5

    T-bone

  31. 5 out of 5

    Jerrod

  32. 4 out of 5

    Gary Geiger

  33. 4 out of 5

    Adam C.

  34. 5 out of 5

    Richard Faytak

  35. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Clark

  36. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

  37. 4 out of 5

    Alan Gongora

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