Seventy-year-old F.X. Toole has exploded onto the literary scene with this astonishing first collection of stories drawn from his own experiences in boxing. In these powerful and moving tales, he reveals a complex web of athletes, trainers, and promoters and their extended families, all players in an unforgiving business where victory, like defeat, comes at a dark and painful price.
F. X. Toole breathes life into vivid, compelling characters who radiate the fierce intensity of the worlds they inhabit. In "The Monkey Look," an aging cut man with an incorrigible sweet tooth works the corner for Hoolie, a featherweight "bleeder" with attitude. "Black Jew" brings Reggie Valentine Love and his camp to a brutal elimination bout in Atlantic City, where they are treated like second-class citizens by a promoter. In "Million $$$ Baby," seasoned trainer Frankie Dunn faces the most daunting challenge of his life when he agrees to aid the fearless Maggie Fitzgerald in her quest to become a champion boxer. "Fightin' in Philly" and "Frozen Water" are stories in which youthful dreams of glory and celebrity are threatened by the harsh realities that suffuse both of these narratives. The novella "Rope Burns" is the crowning achievement of the collection, offering a gritty, heartrending account of the indestructible bond that develops between a devoted fighter and his trainer.
In Rope Burns F.X. bole exhibits the skill of a miniaturist: in precise and exquisite detail, he peoples a world rich in unforgettable characters, like Señora Cabrera, the owner of the Acapulco café, who makes low-fat refried beans to keep a local fighter in top form, and an anonymous museum guard with a soft spot for Michelangelo. Toole's faithful dialogue crackles and bites, and the flawed characters he creates cannot help but remind us of our own too fragile humanity. He brings a new understanding to the violence and purity of the sweet science and the world it engenders, opening a window into the fighter's soul that can never he closed.
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F. X. Toole was born in 1930. Having worked as a bullfighter, professional boxing "cut man," taxi driver, and saloon keeper, Toole published his first book of fiction at age seventy. He died in 2002, before seeing his short story "Million Dollar Baby" become an Academy Award-winning film.From Publishers Weekly:
The story of the 69-year-old author of this astonishing first fiction collection is a salutary one; he wrote between gigs tending boxers in their corners as a "cut man" (who stanches the blood flow and allows fights to continue), finally got a story published by a small literary magazine, was spotted by a keen-eyed agent and achieved book publication. It's amazing it took so long, because Irish-born Toole, now living and working in Los Angeles, is a natural. His knowledge of the bizarre world of professional boxing is encyclopedic and utterly persuasive, his prose is as tight as a well-laced pair of gloves and his protagonists, in this collection of five stories and a novella, are mythically heroic (and occasionally evil) but convincing archetypes. "The Money Look" is an exquisite turning-the-tables yarn at the expense of a cynical crook of a fighter; "Black Jew" is a telling tale of humble ambition woven with the lure of big money. A lacerating account of a courageous, deeply endearing hillbilly woman fighter and her sad fate, "Million $$$ Baby," is arguably the best story in the book. "Fightin' in Philly" is an almost equally moving tale of the toll the ambition to be a title fighter takes on a man. Another innocent torn up by the fight game is portrayed in "Frozen Water." Only the title novella, "Rope Burns," falls somewhat behind the sterling standard set by the other stories, with their firm authority and dead-on dialogue. It is more ambitious, even operatic, in its pitting of an almost superhumanly noble Olympic contender against a low-life East Los Angeles gang member at the time of the Rodney King riots. Like all of Toole's stories, it's breathlessly readable, even though the climactic bloodshed feels forced, as if Toole's cool narrative style cannot bear so much melodramatic freight. But make no mistake, the man is a heavyweight fiction contender. Agent, Nat Sobel. 6-city author tour. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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