The Sweet Science is a collection of articles about boxing written by A.J. Liebling, a journalist for The New Yorker. Written between 1930 and 1955, the articles are about boxing, boxers and the experience of the fans. It is often said that for a job, one should do what one loves. From the way the reporter wrote, it is obvious that he loved the sport and writing about it. Being a collection of articles, there are certain repetitions - complaints about how TV is destroying amateur boxing; how certain periods are good for the sport and others, not so much; bad behavior of fans (usually poor, lower class whites); rich people only coming to be seen but not because they appreciate the sport etc. He also often talks, reverently, about Pierce Egan, a chronicler of the milling culture (I think milling was slang for boxing) in late 18th and early 19th century England; variously calling him Thucydides/Herodotus/Holinshed/Philippe de Commines etc etc of boxing. Interestingly, it appears the Tom and Jerry cartoons are based on characters created by Pierce Egan.

The pieces are written in a spare style, most certainly due to them being newspaper/magazine articles. Given the reputation of the New Yorker for sophistication, one would expect more flowery language. But then again, this was the period of Salinger & Hemingway & Ginsberg, just before Kerouac (and other beat generation writers). Straightforward language was in vogue. Maybe the style was all pervasive.

If he had been a boxer, the pieces could have been called gonzo reporting. Regardless, his perspective isn't limited to just the fights as he visited the boxers and assessed their training, wrote about prefight and post-fight socializing in places where trainers, sparring partners and other aficionados congregate. Places where he ate on the way to fights, hotels he stayed in and so on. He really enjoyed his job and his life. He once wrote (in an unrelated piece) that he was proud of having gout because it showed there was more to life than prolonging it. This is a philosophy I endorse.

I really enjoyed the book and it is heartily recommended. I will look for more of his books.

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