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King of the World MP3 CD – Abridged, Audiobook, MP3 Audio
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You'd think there wouldn't be much left to say about a living icon like Muhammad Ali, yet David Remnick imbues King of the World with all the freshness and vitality this legendary fighter displayed in his prime. Beginning with the pre-Ali days of boxing and its two archetypes, Floyd Patterson (the good black heavyweight) and Sonny Liston (the bad black heavyweight), Remnick deftly sets the stage for the emergence of a heavyweight champion the likes of which the world had never seen: a three-dimensional, Technicolor showman, fighter and minister of Islam, a man who talked almost as well as he fought. But mostly Remnick's portrait is of a man who could not be confined to any existing stereotypes, inside the ring or out.
In extraordinary detail, Remnick depicts Ali as a creation of his own imagination as we follow the willful and mercurial young Cassius Clay from his boyhood and watch him hone and shape himself to a figure who would eventually command center stage in one of the most volatile decades in our history. To Remnick it seems clear that Ali's greatest accomplishment is to prove beyond a doubt that not only is it possible to challenge the implacable forces of the establishment (the noir-ish, gangster-ridden fight game and the ethos of a whole country) but, with the right combination of conviction and talent, to triumph over these forces. --Fred Haefele --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
"I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong," Ali said in 1967 on refusing to be drafted. He was sentenced to five years in prison, and though the Supreme Court would overturn his conviction four years later, principle lost himAtemporarilyAhis title, big bucks, the support of many admirers and the best years of his fighting life. Vietnam postdates most of New Yorker editor Remnick's (Lenin's Tomb) coverage, as he writes little about Ali in the post-Sonny Liston era. At its best, the book recalls the boxing writings of A.J. Liebling, while Remnick's frequent use of Ali's hilarious "rapper" doggerel adds to the melancholy humor through which he describes the Louisville kid who beat gambling odds on the way to the heavyweight title but couldn't beat the medical odds. "The history of [prize] fighters," Remnick writes, "is the history of men who end up damaged." Only in his middle 50s, the once graceful Ali, last seen worldwide clutching the Atlanta Olympic torch in a trembling hand, is disabled by degenerative Parkinson's disease. To many, though, he was disabled even earlier by his conversion to Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam, which, whatever its controversial separatist image, "orders [Ali's] life and helps him cope with his illness," according to Remnick. The author smartly records Ali's defiant besting of adversaries in and out of the ring and shows him to be a champion human being. 16 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
But there's a special bonus in this book - a good portion of it deals with Sonny Liston. You talk about your seminal 20th Century characters. They don't get any more interesting than this guy: the abused son of a sharecropper, long stretches of imprisonment, a fight career directed by mob interests, a violent death. In short, a writer's dream. Remnick brings Liston together with Floyd Patterson (and you'll never find a greater constrast) and walks you through these two battles before turning his attention to Ali. Thus, you get a full portrait of Liston prior to encountering the force of nature that was then Cassius Clay.
The effect is a curious sympathy that you have for Liston as he enters the maelstrom developing around Ali. In most retellings, Liston is cast as the personification of evil. Remnick made me see him in a different light.
My advice for a great Ali study program:
1. Watch 'When We Were Kings' [Best documentary ever]
2. Read 'The Fight' by Norman Mailer
3. Read 'King of the World'
4. Buy any book featuring Howard Bingham's photography of Ali.
The first thing that struck me when I read the book is that its first section discusses Muhammad Ali (or Cassius Clay) very little. Instead, Remnick focuses on the two boxers who helped to gave shape to Ali's legend: Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston. The former was a reluctant champion from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, and Remnick brings Patterson's reticence and self-doubt into full view. The latter was a street thug from an impoverished rural background, a vision of America's deepest fears about African-Americans.
Remnick details Liston's two devastating first-round demolitions of Patterson and illuminates the complicated relationship the public had with Liston. On the one hand, he was despised because of his criminal background and ties to the mob; on the other, Remnick makes clear, he was comforing because he confirmed stereotyped perceptions of black men. One of Remnick's great accompishments in the book is to humanize Liston without in the least diminishing his surly and even hateful demeanor.
With Liston the controversial heavyweight champ, the loud, abrasive, seemingly self-confident Cassius Clay, of Louisville, Kentucky, stepped into the national spotlight. Remnick displays the future champion in all his complex glory: his braggadocio, his complex relationship with white people, including his trainer and doctor, his innate intelligence that was paired with his lack of formal schooling, his ability to manipulate the press, and so on.
Interwoven into his story of how Cassius Clay literally created his life and legend and became the man we know as Muhammad Ali is excellent social history on the civil rights movement and Ali's relationship with the Muslims, including Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. It is not surprising for those of us who grew up in the '60s that sport was so mixed up with politics in Muhammad Ali's day and that he was a key figure in shaping politics. Those who do not remember the time, however, may find it enlightening to realize that there was once an athlete who paid dearly for his political beliefs: Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title and banned from the ring for four years for his opposition to the war in Vietnam.
Remnick brings all of this vividly to life. He manages, in a bare 300 pages, to meld sports, politics, and history into a story that unfolds like a great heavyweight fight. Must read.