From Publishers Weekly
Fought with thunderclouds of war on the horizon, the 1938 heavyweight rematch between Detroit's Joe Louis and Germany's Max Schmeling qualifies as the sort of sporting event that coalesces into a symbolic moment with much larger themes. The African-American Louis's success and demeanor were an unsubtle rebuke to the Aryan theories of race; the affable Schmeling, for his part, would be shoehorned into the role of "Nazi Max," despite the uneasiness of the fit—later that year, on Kristallnacht, he would courageously protect two German Jews. Vanity Fair
contributor Margolick (Strange Fruit
) keeps his bold, colorful focus squarely on the hubbub leading up to the bout; the all-consuming welter of hype—almost every utterance in the book is tinged by race or geopolitics—makes for compelling reading. The fight pitted talent against tactics: Schmeling's previous defeat of the hitherto "unbeatable" Louis depended on Schmeling's shrewd perception of a flaw in Louis's technique. Louis was a critical transitional figure between the controversial first African-American champ, Jack Johnson, and the equally polarizing Muhammad Ali. Schmeling, in turn, was truly the antithesis of the thugs who were running his country. Every chapter in the company of such estimable and likable stalwarts is an unalloyed pleasure. Photos.
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*Starred Review* In 1938, radio announcer Clem McCarthy called the rematch between German Max Schmeling and American Joe Louis "the greatest fight of our generation." The greatest fight, as it turned out, was still to come and would be contested outside the boxing ring. This new book examines a world near war and grapple with the lasting importance of Louis versus Schmeling. Margolick provides a roaring ride through Nazi Germany and Depression-era America, as seen in the lives of Louis and Schmeling. Written with all the verve and wit of the best 1930s sportswriters (whom Margolis often quotes to great effect), Beyond Glory
contains gripping accounts of Louis and Schmeling's two fights with each other and their bouts with other top contenders. But the greatest strength of Margolick's narrative is the larger history it supplies. For two boxers who claimed no interest in politics, Schmeling and Louis got caught up in one of the great political conflicts of the century. Margolick magnificently captures the tension--between white and black, American and German, Jew and Gentile, Fascist and Democrat--that defined the time. Readers emerge with nuanced characterizations of the fighters and the nations they represented. With its balance of popular history and riveting comeback story, Beyond Glory
will be the definitive account of Louis versus Schmeling. And it's a hell of a good read besides. John GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved