"...like hippopotamuses in a beer vat."
T here was a time when I used the State Reference Library, a non-lending facility, a great deal, before they closed it for refurbishment and I came to depend on the internet for my research. They probably just wanted to increase their internet access and add a few dozen extra monitors anyway. I would always arrive there without notepaper, and the solution to that difficulty was simply to pull discarded photocopies from the wastebasket and use the backs of them. Occasionally I would like what was on the front and take them home and file them. In this way I came across a small stack of papers on the front of which I scribbled 'Boxing' and filed it on my bookshelf as a placeholder until the actual book from which the pages were photocopied should one day come into my possession. That was around twelve years ago and the pages are now quite yellowed around the edges and have become in themselves a kind of book in my imagination, or at least a bookish object. They are from A.J. Liebling's The Sweet Science
A. J. Liebling (1904–63) was a longtime contributor and columnist for the New Yorker. He wrote The Sweet Science and nineteen other books of nonfiction, including Mollie and Other War Pieces... (frrom book description at Amazon.com)
It's not a hard-to-find book by any means, and I know I'll one day sit down with it. There's something about the best of old-time sports writing that has always appealed to me. As one of the customer reviewers at that Amazon link writes:
...this book is a window into an different world, the age just before television took hold, when many people still took their amusement outside their homes.
In the same location, reviewer John Y. Liu writes:
Sportswriting is generally shlock. But A.J. Liebling was no sportswriter. Perhaps the finest reporter ever, certainly one of The New Yorker's shining lights, Liebling wrote with equal grace on the swaggering cons of Broadway, his misspent youth in pre-war Paris, blood pooled in a landing craft off Omaha Beach, just about anything that caught his sharp eye and florid pen. And because Liebling wrote what he loved, he also wrote boxing. Whether he was at an obscure club fight or a marquee bout, Liebling never saw his subjects as muscled automata. His boxers were people, every fight a story, and the stories collected in the Sweet Science form a classic work of sport that no cigar-chewing sports hack ever tossed on a wire.
Another reviewer, artanis65:
The whimsical quality of some of his writing is apparent in the following excerpt, when he's describing how putting sparring partners on the preliminary card makes for bad fights: "Sparring partners are endowed with habitual consideration and forbearance, and they find it hard to change character. A kind of guild fellowship holds them together, and they pepper each other's elbows with merry abandon, grunting with pleasure like hippopotamuses in a beer vat." That's great writing.
In The Sweet Science Liebling saw himself extending Pierce Egan's Boxiana, that monument to the sport in its early days. Egan was an early 19th century writer whose madcap prose I celebrated here on 28th March
There follows a passage from those yellowing pages on my shelf, being from the introduction to the book:
Egan's pageant scenes of trulls and lushes, toffs and toddlers, all setting off for some great public, illegal prizefight, are written Rowlandson, just as Rowlandson's print of the great second fight between Cribb and Molineaux is graphic Egan. In the foreground of the picture there is a whore sitting on her gentleman's shoulders the better to see the fight, while a pickpocket lifts the gentleman's reader (watch). Cribb has just hit Molineaux the floorer, and Molineaux is falling, as he has continued to do for a hundred and forty-five years since. He hasn't hit the floor yet, but every time I look at the picture I expect to see him land. On the horizon are the delicate green hills and the pale blue English sky, hand-tinted by old drunks recruited in kip-shops (flophouses). The prints cost a shilling colored. When I look at my copy I can smell the crowd and the wildflowers.
JUST RELEASED THIS WEEK!
Playboy's Silverstein Around the World by Shel Silverstein.
Displaying the wit and marvelous drawings that made Shel Silverstein one of the most beloved artists of the century, Playboy's Silverstein Around the World collects and reproduces the twenty-three travel pieces Silverstein created for Playboy between 1957 and 1968.
While children and adults alike know Shel Silverstein for his classic books The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, they may be less aware that Silverstein also created a dazzling series of illustrated comic travelogues published by Hugh M. Hefner in Playboy.
Thanks for link to mr j, who also mentions: "Shel of course is also the writer of such songs as-
Unicorn- performed by the Irish Rovers
Cover of the Rolling Stone- performed by dr hook
A Boy Named Sue- performed by Johnny Cash"
Update. mr j off work. Spends day finding Silverstein on youtube
Meryl Streep singing "i'm checking out" from postcards from the edge.
Marianne Faihfull singing "ballad of lucy jordan"
THAT DAMN BLOGGER! Every time they improve the system, something that I've taken for granted for the last six months now doesn't work any more. For almost a week now I cannot preview these posts. The first I see of it that isn't HTML gobbledygook is when I publish it. Then I have to pull it down a half dozen times until it's fixed. It's something that's affecting Safari and mac. So if You're seeing this in a syndicated feed, it probably still needs fixin'. You should just link straight here. You're missing a whole lot of sidebar jollies and god knows what else.
Better still, give me a call and meet me up the pub.
My Rudolph Toeppfer books from the Blithering Idiots were shipped on 9th April and still haven't got here. I ordered another lot from Amazon on 19 may and they got here today. Beautiful books. You'll be hearing more from me.
In other news:
In an experiment to see what people will take if it is offered at no charge, a free computer virus was put up for grabs and so far 409 people have clicked on it. Helsinki (Reuters)
Labels: old books(1)