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The Longshot: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, August 11, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Four years earlier, top Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Cal took on the powerful Rivera, who won the fight by judges' decision. Now, at 29, Cal's out to stage a comeback, à la Rocky Balboa. Spare and beautifully written, this debut novel follows Cal and his loyal trainer, Riley, as they head to Tijuana for the rematch. Cal and Riley privately wonder if they've made a huge miscalculation; Rivera this time is after a knockout, and Cal doubts that his body can withstand Rivera's pounding, and questions if the fire in him is passion or just an overwhelming fear of retirement. In the world Kitamura creates, only these three men exist; there is no family or friends. She reveals Cal's heart and mind as he struggles to understand himself as a man and as a fighter and paints the portrait of Riley as a loving but gruff friend and mentor. Kitamura, a journalist who for years has followed MMA matches, brings a physicality to her story with descriptions of the action so vivid the reader feels the pain of every punch and kick. (Aug.)
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"In her debut novel, The Longshot, Katie Kitamura delivers the reader into the exotic, bruising, and hypermasculine world of mixed martial arts with startling economy and even more startling insight...Kitamura excels at slicing and dicing to build tension. Hers is a dry-eyed viewpoint expressed through detail so sharp freeze-frames seem to turn kinetic. One lesson of The Longshot is you must fulfill your commitments, if only to find out what you're made of. Another is that Kitamura is a major talent." -- Boston Globe
"The Longshot takes the reader into the minds, hearts, and bodies of two highly dedicated and taciturn men. Kitamura's descriptions of mixed-martial-arts fighting are brutal yet beautiful....Her writing is spellbinding...in its power. Kitamura is a genuine discovery." -- Booklist, starred review
"If you're planning to get into the ring with the heavyweights of boxing lit (A.J. Liebling's The Sweet Science, Leonard Gardner's Fat City), you need a knockout hook. Katie Kitamura, in her debut novel, has one." -- Entertainment Weekly
"Katie Kitamura has produced a lean, taut little novel as authentic as any sport could hope to have represent it. The Longshot, her debut effort, reads the way we imagine the best fighters to be: quiet, measured, self-assured, always thinking ahead...[with] a fierce sense of elegance." -- The Daily Beast
"An extraordinary novel from a major new talent. In taut, pared-down prose, Kitamura takes the reader right into the ring." -- Hari Kunzru, author of The Impressionist
"This is a terrific debut: charged, intimate, raw. Here is an author who not only understands the alloying of muscle and mentality in sport, the elation and heartbreak of competition, and of life, but can also write about it all with compassion and beautiful austerity." -- Sarah Hall, author of The Electric Michelangelo
"Hemingway's returned to life -- and this time, he's a woman." -- Tom McCarthy, author of Remainder
"With refreshingly unadorned prose, Kitamura reduces to an intensely crystalline moment the tension surrounding a fighter and his coach as they prepare for a match. Kitamura's language sticks to the page with a delightful monocular clarity that invites readers to enter into the minds of these two men. The Longshot gives readers a rare glimpse into an intriguing world." -- Yannick Murphy, author of Signed, Mata Hari
"Back in the day, we'd have wondered how a woman -- a woman! -- could know so much about this brutally masculine world. The marvel today is that Katie Kitamura can write about it with such grace, compassion, and breezy confidence. She knows her way around the ring and the human heart." -- Elizabeth Benedict, author of The Practice of Deceit --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
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This is the kind of book you should read all at once. It will not blow your hair back, nor will it change your life. But it is a great piece of writing, and offers a mellow-but-serious contribution to action/sport/mma fiction.
For a first novel, LONG SHOT is very well written. The dialogue flows nicely and some of the exchanges between fighter and trainer are brief, but insightful and rewarding. New authors often tend to overpower the early efforts with too much dialogue or too much prose trying to describe every minute detail. But here, Kitamura proves a quick study. The book takes place over a short time period (3 days), clocks in at just 190 pages, and keeps the dialogue and descriptiveness on a need-to-know basis, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who's interested in MMA as there is a nice level of authenticity that feels like the reader is truly getting a peek behind the curtain in what is becoming the fastest growing sport in the world. It would also be a good read for anyone who enjoys character studies, especially ones that involve people looking back on their lives trying to derive meaning from their actions, a truly powerful experience.
What drew me in about this novel was the chance to explore the nuts and bolts of what it takes to become an MMA fighter, what it takes to maintain a competitive status in the MMA world, and the "guts behind the glory."
As R. Awbrey pointed out in a previous review, journalists-turned-novelists tend to seem polarized in their writing styles. Many of them bring their cut-to-the-chase, economical presentation with them when they tackle fiction, while others seem to feel compelled to turn against their journalistic ways, with the result that their prose becomes bloated at the expense of the story.
Ms. Kitamura belongs to the former group. She writes with economy indeed; her prose is taut, sometimes teetering on sparse. But her style works well for this subject, conveying well the spartan life of a fighter who's never made the big time, the relationship between him and his coach, and the culture of MMA fighters. She writes with great economy, and yet there is enough meat in her prose that I didn't find it skimpy.
I hope Ms. Kitamura's next novel will come soon. I'm looking forward to watching her evolution as a fiction writer.
The Longshot is a quick read and probably isn't going to go down in history as one of the all time great sports novels. However, this book is a great read for MMA fans who really don't have a lot to choose from in terms of entertainment revolving around the sport other than watching it on TV. Sports fans who aren't familiar with MMA can find something to enjoy with this book as well.