The Fight (1975) by Norman Mailer: Feel the punch of a heavyweight
Mailer is no ‘bad joke’ – he writes with a reckless candour foreign to today’s nice guys
Norman Mailer. Photograph: Ken Regan/NMWC
In this newspaper Norman Mailer was recently written off as “a bad joke”. Mailer, with his oeuvre as big, brash and brilliant as the American century that birthed him! The goad cannot pass unchallenged, so here I am in Mailer’s corner, pouring water in his mouth and rubbing his shoulders till he gets back up for another round.
There are two kinds of reader I can imagine loving The Fight as much as I do: those who have an interest in boxing, and everybody else. Mailer’s account of the 1974 Heavyweight Championship fight in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman has all the dramatic tension of a novel even though we know how it’s going to end. Mailer is no disembodied observer: “Now, our man of wisdom had a vice. He wrote about himself. Not only would he describe the events he saw, but his own small effect on events.”