Monday, May 28, 2018
Books

Book review: "The Longest Fight: In the Ring with Joe Gans" by William Gildea

The boxer Joe Gans is largely forgotten today. Mild-mannered, he lacked the boisterous charisma of a Jack Johnson or Muhammad Ali. But from 1902 to 1908, he was the world lightweight king, America's first black boxing champion.

In 1906, in the 100-degree fug of the southern Nevada desert, he took on Oscar "Battling" Nelson in a legendary 42-round fight, two hours and 48 minutes in length, the longest bout of the 20th century. The match and Gans' story are the subject of The Longest Fight, a gem of a book by former Washington Post sports columnist William Gildea.

In lean prose, Gildea gives us a blow-by-blow account of Gans' career. He pivots from describing the fight, to exploring his subject's life, to examining the racism of the age and the contradictions of "sportsmanship" that belittled blacks while making money off them.

Despite what the white sportswriters and cartoonists of the time had to say about it, Gans was one of the smartest athletes ever. "A timeline of outstanding thinkers in American sports," Gildea writes, "could extend back from Tiger Woods ... to, say, Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe and Bill Bradley and Bill Russell and Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson and Gene Tunney and, drawn far enough, to Joe Gans."

Take an example from the 31st round of that Nevada fight: "Gans seemed on the verge of winning," Gildea writes. "But then, inexplicably, something happened." He stopped fighting and began hopping on one foot. "Did he have a cramp? Did he pull a muscle?" No, he was camouflaging an injury. He had broken a bone in his right hand while pummeling Nelson's face into rare sausage. But he couldn't let Nelson know that. "It was one of the craftiest things I ever saw a man do in the heat of the battling, a thing which thoroughly attested to Joe's great ring generalship," the fight's promoter, Tex Rickard, said.

To think that Gans fought 11 more rounds with that broken hand. Too bad he was competing against one of the toughest athletes around. Nelson, a Danish street tough, was a fierce derecho of a fighter. "The longer a fight, the better Nelson liked it," Gildea writes. " 'I ain't human,' Nelson delighted in saying." But in the end, Nelson's frustration led him to deliver an all-too-human illegal punch that gave the victory to Gans.

Comments
Notable: Books for the beach

Notable: Books for the beach

NotableBooks for the beachSuit up: It’s time for a few new books built for vacation reading.By Invitation Only (William Morrow) by Dorothea Benton Frank is the latest serving of Frank’s trademark warm humor and engaging characters, set around two wed...
Published: 05/25/18
Judy Blundell brings on summertime on Long Island in ‘High Season’

Judy Blundell brings on summertime on Long Island in ‘High Season’

NightstandJudy BlundellSince it’s Memorial Day weekend, we decided to touch base with Judy Blundell, whose new book is High Season. The novel’s protagonist is Ruthie Beamish, director of a small museum who, to make ends meet, rents out her seaside ho...
Published: 05/25/18

Events: Pulitzer winner Jack Davis to discuss ‘The Gulf’ at Oxford Exchange

Book TalkUniversity of Florida historian Jack E. Davis (The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea) will discuss and sign his Pulitzer Prize-winning book at 1 p.m. May 27 at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Admission $5, applicable towar...
Published: 05/25/18
Review: Family matters in David Sedaris’ ‘Calypso’

Review: Family matters in David Sedaris’ ‘Calypso’

David Sedaris gets right to the point in the opening of the first essay in his new book, Calypso: "Though there’s an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you’ll ac...
Published: 05/24/18
Review: Strait-laced writer Michael Pollan explores psychedelics, and leaves the door of perception ajar

Review: Strait-laced writer Michael Pollan explores psychedelics, and leaves the door of perception ajar

Microdosing is hot. If you haven’t heard — but you probably have, from reports of its use at Silicon Valley workplaces, from Ayelet Waldman’s memoir A Really Good Day, from dozens of news stories — to microdose is to take small amounts of LSD, which ...
Published: 05/24/18
Bancroft: Philip Roth deftly explored male lust, Jewish identity, American history and politics

Bancroft: Philip Roth deftly explored male lust, Jewish identity, American history and politics

Philip Roth, one of the most potent voices in American fiction, died Tuesday night of congestive heart failure in a New York City hospital. He was 85.Mr. Roth was the last man standing of a generation of fiction writers sometimes called "the great wh...
Published: 05/23/18

Events: Tarbell.org founder Wendell Potter to discuss, sign book

Book TalkTarbell.org founder Wendell Potter (Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It) will discuss and sign his book at 4 p.m. May 23 at the St. Petersburg Main Library, 3745 Ninth Ave. N.Applications are ...
Published: 05/21/18
The real stuff is how Tom Wolfe best used his write stuff

The real stuff is how Tom Wolfe best used his write stuff

Tom Wolfe’s best writing lifted real people into legend: car designers and astronauts and disciples of LSD. With that writing, Wolfe lifted himself into legend as well. The author of 16 books, including such bestsellers as The Right Stuff and ...
Published: 05/18/18
Review: In Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider,’ evil can’t be true but must be true

Review: In Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider,’ evil can’t be true but must be true

On a July day, Terry Maitland, one of the most popular men in Flint City, Okla. — high school English teacher, Little League coach, husband and father, recently named the town’s man of the year — attends a teachers convention in a city over an hour’s...
Published: 05/17/18

Events: Gilbert King to discuss ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ at Inkwood in Tampa

Book TalkCutter Wood (Love and Death in the Sunshine State: The Story of a Crime) will discuss and sign his nonfiction book about a murder on Anna Maria Island at 6 p.m. May 14 at Bookstore1, 12 S Palm Ave., Sarasota.The Gulfport Historical Society p...
Updated one month ago