January 2011 Was…

I can’t help but sing ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” when I think of the month January has been. If you live in any state (besides Hawaii) you know what I am talking about. Even HotTopic-Lanta has gotten some snowfall. They haven’t known what to do with it, but they got it nonetheless! Needless to say the snow has kept me indoors and reading for the month of January! For the record, here are the books:

  • Breath, Eyes Memory by Edwidge Danticat ~ in honor of Danticat’s birth month. This was a movie in my head (or else a true-life story). Really, really good!
  • Cruddy by Lynda Barry ~ in honor of Barry’s birth month. This was one of the most disturbing books I have read so far. the violence and abuse was over the top.
  • King of the World by David Remnick ~ in honor of Muhammad Ali’s birth month. I didn’t know I wanted to know but I’m glad I know.
  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov ~ in honor of Asimov’s birth month. Science fiction, of course. Interesting, but a little redundant in theme.
  • Two in the Far North by Margaret Murie ~ in honor of Alaska becoming a state in the month of January. Courage and adventure personified. I enjoyed this book a lot.
  • Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army From the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944 -May 7, 1945 by Stephen Ambrose ~ in honor of Ambrose’s birth month. It took me a little to get into this book but I’m glad I read it. It is slowly helping me get over my fear of Hitler and all things Nazi.
  • Another Song About the King by Kathryn Stern ~ in honor of Elvis Presley’s birth month being in January. This was a super fast, super fun read.

I was supposed to get an Early Review book but it hasn’t arrived yet. It will go on the February list of books, hopefully.

King of the World

Remnick, David. King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero. New York: Random House, 1998.

I realize David Remnick needed to set the scene, to establish the boxing backdrop in order for Cassius Clay’s story to be fully appreciated, but in my opinion three whole chapters equaling 68 pages was too much pre-story information. There was too much detail about the Floyd Patterson/Sonny Liston rivalry. To be fair, the long introduction established the dangerous culture of the mafia-driven boxing world before Cassius Clay entered it and how lucky he was to escape it. It clearly illustrated the mold Cassius Clay was about to break while simultaneously solidifying Liston and Clay’s animosity towards one another. I just wish it didn’t take three chapters to do it.

I think the entire story of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali can be summed up by one sentence late in the prologue, “He hit people for a living, and yet by middle age he would be a symbol not merely of courage, but of love, of decency, even a kind of wisdom” (p xvi). It is true Ali started out as a loud-mouthed, egotistical, “pretty” kid who could back up his bravado with a mean left hook. He hid his emotions under constant chatter. But, by the time the heart of Remnick’s biography leaves the story of Cassius Clay, Clay had barely become Muhammad Ali, had just beaten Sonny Liston in a November 22, 1965 fight to defend his heavyweight title, and was on the cusp of being a cultural icon. He had yet to sway the country as a force to be reckoned with. He would not become the beloved everyone thinks of today. It’s as if Remnick needs to write a King of the World: Part II and tell the rest of the story.

Line I liked: “The doctors of Maine may have been accustomed to a relatively low level of fitness” (p 250).

One of the coolest things about King of the World was learning that Ali trained in Chicopee Falls, MA and that his second bout with Liston happened in Lewiston, Maine. I had fun researching the Schine family and the different hotels they owned (including one in Northampton that is still in operation today). An inside joke – Robert Goulet sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ before the Ali/Liston fight. He couldn’t remember the words nor could he hear the orchestra! Glouleeeet!

Author Fact: David Remnick is a member of the New York Public Library Board of Trustees. He was born in Hackensack, New Jersey (one of my old stomping grounds), is fluent in Russian and has won a Pulitzer Prize,

Book Trivia: One of the best things about King of the World is the photo layout. Instead of having¬†the traditional¬†group of photographs clumped in the middle of the book Remnick’s photos are spread throughout the book, making each section a little present.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “Dewey Deconstruction: 700s” (p 74).