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One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing Paperback – May 1, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist Dunn (Geek Love) collects 22 essays and articles written over the last quarter-century. In 1980, Dunn's then-husband had her watch a fight on TV and from that day forward she was hooked. Soon afterward, Dunn began freelancing boxing pieces to an alternative paper in Oregon, the Willamette Weekly. Over the years, Dunn has written on such subjects as hand wraps and cuts, on fighters famous (Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler) and obscure (Andy Minsker) and on the phenomenon of women's boxing. Her articles have appeared in publications that include Playboy, Sports Illustrated and Mother Jones. Although Dunn's fiction is celebrated for its style, her essay prose rarely rises above the journeyman. Dunn seems to have a hard time deciding on her authorial position from essay to essay—advocate, journalist or eyewitness—and the lack of focus leaves the reader equally confused. Overall, the collection lacks unity: since Dunn is producing occasional pieces for various markets, she recycles the same details in different places, especially with the pieces on women and boxing. In a few articles, however, like Defending Tyson and the Minsker pieces, Dunn unveils insight that exceeds the merely perfunctory. While Dunn may be an old pro when it comes to fiction, with boxing she remains an amateur, albeit an enthusiastic one. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Featured in the Los Angeles Times Book Review's "Summer Books, Hot Type, 60 Picks for Best Reads of the Summer"



"Dunn unveils insight that exceeds the merely perfunctory."  —Publishers Weekly



"An exciting new addition to boxing literature. [Dunn's] prose is brilliant, and in a game so fully immersed in danger and utmost peril, the most striking thing is . . . [her]humanity."  —Thom Jones, National Book Award finalist, The Pugilist at Rest


"One of our finest novelists is also, hands-down, the best boxing journalist working today."  —Lucius Shepard, Nebula and Hugo Award–winning science fiction writer and boxing journalist



"Ms. Dunn's collection is already my candidate for boxing book of the year. This one belongs on the top shelf alongside Heinz's Once They Heard the Cheers and McIlvanney's The Hardest Game."  —Peter Ehrmann, CBZ Newswire, CyberBoxingZone



"Collects the best and most accessible of [Dunn's] published essays, which vibrantly capture the culture, characters, and atmosphere of the sport [of boxing]."  —The Portland Mercury


"Katherine Dunn understands the sport instinctively and writes about it intuitively in this rich collection of her work. Not to coin a cliche, One Ring Circus is a 'Knockout'!"  —Bert Randolph Sugar, writer and historian, Boxing Hall of Fame

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Schaffner Press, Inc. (May 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980139422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980139426
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Katherine Dunn is an award-winning boxing journalist whose work has appeared in many publications, including Esquire, KO Magazine, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Playboy, The Ring, Sports Illustrated, and Vogue. She is the author of three novels, including Geek Love, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. In 2004, Dunn and photographer Jim Lommasson won the Lange-Taylor Documentary Prize for their work on the book Shadow Boxers. She is currently associate editor of cyberboxingzone.com, an internet boxing encyclopedia and magazine. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Customer Reviews

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Anyone who loves boxing should read it.
R. Sohi
Outside of some typographical errors, the presentation of the material is as nice looking as you're likely to find in a softcover book.
Matthew S
Kathleen Dunn presents a very interesting perspective on boxing writing.
Pugwash

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rose on May 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
Katherine Dunn is a boxer's writer. Unlike many literary types who pursue the sport as a overwrought metaphor, titillation, or slumming with the lower classes, Dunn truly understands and appreciates boxing. She has spent decades learning the sport, from the coaches to the fighters themselves. She sees the gentleness that can exist behind the gloves, the contractions of the ring, and the uncertainty of a sport that remains entrenched in another time. To have a writer of her skill translate such a sport is a rare experience.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Sohi on May 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an anthology of novelist, Katherine Dunn's, thoughtful musings on the sweet science written over the last twenty-five or so years. You won't find articles about Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao or any of the other recent superstars of the sport (the exception being an insightful essay on Mike Tyson). With mixed results Dunn instead casts her gaze on the journeymen who are the foundation of the sport, the great fights from the golden era of the 1980s, the relatively unsuccessful struggle women boxers have had to be seen as something more than a sideshow and the lessons boxers gain from their years of dedication to their craft.

Dunn's essays demonstrate her knowledge of the sport and deep respect for it's practitioners. What's most impressive is her independence of thought as she reflects on events in the history of the sport during the time she's been an observer. For instance, the aforementioned article on Tyson provides a useful balance to the conventional view that he is a madman by digging beneath the surface and offering some explanation (not defense) of his conduct in the "bite fight," when he twice bit Evander Holyfield's ears.

"One Ring Circus" is not in the same league as Ralph Wiley's "Serenity" or Carlo Rotella's "Cut Time" - books that surpass this one, are deeper, more poignant for the way in which they explore how hardship reshapes character. It's strength is in its coverage of actual fights, where it is as good, if not better, than the work of Thomas Hauser, John Schulian or Hugh McIlvanney, all of whom are considered among the best boxing reporters.

Anyone who loves boxing should read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pugwash on April 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
Kathleen Dunn presents a very interesting perspective on boxing writing. A columnist for a small time newspaper with enough of a budget to send her to some big fights in the 1980's, she was one of the only women to cover and write about the Sweet Science in this time period. From a point in time paradigm, she writes about not only the major men's fights of the era, Leonard-Hagler, Hearns-Hagler, Duran-Hagler and Holmes-Cooney, but also the emergence of women's boxing.

Her take on these events is unique. She talks of not really liking Sugar Ray Leonard as a fighter. Though she breaks the beat writer's rule of impartiality, she does admit to admiration of skills. She talks of Hagler's pride and craftsman's love of his middleweight title, and the tragedy (to him) of losing heis precious cargo to an illusionist like Sugar Ray Leonard (at that point in his career). Of Larry Holmes, another proud craftsman fighting through the bigotry and near-sightedness of a sports nation while defending his title against Gerry Cooney.

Some of the most interesting writing comes on the heels of women's pro boxing, which, as she writes about it was in its infancy. One article talks not specifically about women's boxing, but about women's capacity for both cruelty and savagery. She uses Government statistics and a well researched back-up to articulate her position. This is a highly thought provoking article. Her article on the fight between Laila Ali and Jacqueline Frazier-Hyde is well thought out, focussing on te promotion, and the build up of these two famous daughters as celebrities in their own right.

The fight action reporting is slim here, but the writing works on a whole different level.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Matthew S on May 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't know a lot about boxing. I've heard the names "Ali" and "Tyson" thrown around before, and I have some basic idea about what the sport entails; but mostly I've just watched The Simpson's episode "The Homer They Fall" where papa Simpson figures out he can sustain numerous blows to the head without any damage. He fights his way through the amateur league in Springfield (which consists entirely of hobos) until he finally ends up going pro and getting in over his head. The episode isn't one of my favorites, and I never thought I'd find myself the least bit interested in the sport itself.

Enter Katherine Dunn.

Over a year ago, I read Geek Love as a supplementary novel in an American Literature class and got hooked. I still haven't quite put my finger on what it is about Dunn's writing that charms me, but I've been looking for more ever since. Recently, I used my college's Academic Research Database to find some of Dunn's journalistic articles and read those. I'm not a "news" guy, and I've never been a reader of newspapers or periodicals of any sort. I read "The Knockout"--which appears in this volume--online and was instantly enchanted.

Maybe it was Dunn's writing that drew me in once again. Maybe it was the fact that I had never considered the dynamic of women, boxing, and feminism before. And maybe I'm rooting for the underdog again, developing an interest in a sport that hasn't gotten much press lately. I wasn't sure if an entire book of essays on boxing was up my alley even then, but I took a risk and ordered a copy online as my first, declared summer reading novel.

I wasn't disappointed.

One Ring Circus is not a neophyte's guide to boxing.
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