Book King of the World Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero My S F Chronicle review from David Remnick deserves a nod of thanks for among other things helping us associate the words
Book King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero My S.F. Chronicle review from 1998:David Remnick deserves a nod of thanks for, among other things, helping us associate the words ``King of the World'' with something other than a pop movie director so awash in Oscar-night self-congratulation that he seemed intent on drawing sniper fire. Remnick, who is editor of the New Yorker, is a writer to watch, and he and the greatest sports figure of the century are an excellent match. Some will complain that this compact study of Cassius Clay's evolution into Muhammad Ali lacks the scope and originality to justify yet another book on so famous a man, but such complaints won't give Remnick enough credit. Though not yet 40, he has established himself as one of the most prominent literary nonfiction writers of his time. He never forgets the value of a great quote, and he has John McPhee's gift for pared-down prose and for letting a story tell itself. But Remnick never fades from the narrative entirely; he's always a presence, and has a knack for picking just the right moment to let you know where he stands. His strengths as a writer are a knack for psychological insight and the patience and confidence to wait for the chance to assert himself. As it happens, those are two of the qualities that made the young fighter Clay so great, even when the cabal of sportswriters rendered so unforgettably here insisted he was nothing but a clown and a nuisance. Clay's verbal dancing kept him out of his critics' range, much as his dancing in the ring bewildered his opponents. And as Remnick understands so well, Clay's brilliant reimagining of the role of public sports hero has shaped our century. Remnick won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for ``Lenin's Tomb,'' which was loaded with insight and good, tasty bits that made the insight go down as easily as potato chips. This knack of his comes through best in ``King of the World'' with his masterful portrait of the two archetypal heavyweight champions who preceded Clay, neurotic Floyd Patterson and menacing Sonny Liston. Remnick almost goes too far in showing you how lame Patterson could be, actually taking fake whiskers to title fights so he could escape incognito if he lost. ``That was always the way it was with Floyd,'' Remnick writes. ``Fear, especially the fear of losing, ate at him. He was entitled to call himself the toughest man on the planet, yet he didn't much believe it. He was champion in the sense that Chester A. Arthur had been president.'' Much later, Patterson makes the mistake of enraging Ali by bad-mouthing the Nation of Islam. Ali retaliates by torturing Patterson in a ludicrously one-sided Vegas title fight, which Ali drags out painfully. Afterward Patterson seeks out Frank Sinatra, who earlier that day had been urging him on, obviously eager to have Ali silenced: ``Patterson visited Frank Sinatra in his suite and apologized for his performance,'' Remnick writes. ``No heavyweight champion had ever done more apologizing in his life. The singer was having none of it.'' The portrait of Liston is even more affecting. Remnick offers a novelist's approach to characterization, rich in atmosphere and balanced around a telling detail or two. But his real genius arises from one very simple insight: The famous people whose struggles make history are a lot more like everyone else than might at first seem obvious. This was true of Gorbachev in ``Lenin's Tomb'' and it's true of Liston, too, no matter how deadly a left jab he had, no matter how intimidating his stare could be. It's almost painful to read Remnick's description of Liston's plane ride home to Philadelphia just after he has defeated Patterson and become heavyweight champ. Liston had been telling a friendly sportswriter, Jack McKinney, all about his high-minded plans for his time as champ, but McKinney was ``at the point of tears,'' knowing Liston was going to be snubbed because of his image as an intimidating African American man. ``The plane landed,'' Remnick writes. ``The door opened. Liston came out first and looked down at the tarmac. McKinney saw Liston's Adam's apple move, and his shoulders shudder. There was no crowd on the tarmac, no welcome at all, only a desultory ground crew doing its job.'' This is an eloquent, narrowly focused book, eager to capture a subtle and essential story for future generations. Ali lives in these pages, and not just when Remnick fights through the veil lowered by Parkinson's disease to converse with the man himself at Ali's farmhouse in Michigan. ``Ali was a beautiful warrior and he was reflecting a new posture for a black man,'' Remnick quotes Toni Morrison at one point. ``I don't like boxing, but he was a thing apart. His grace was almost appalling.'' Remnick is an honest guide through the topography of Ali's world. The idea of putting what you believe on the line instead of just talking about it seems so remote now that it's almost hard to believe that Ali spent time in jail for his principles, which forbade him to fight in Vietnam. ``Man,'' Ali said famously at the time, ``I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.'' In a culture addicted to the titillation of scandal and the packaged revelation of trailer-trash self-caricatures, no virtue has atrophied more than moral imagination. Remnick's book exercises the moral imagination with the fervor of Sonny Liston skipping rope to James Brown's ``Night Train.'' This is, in short, a member of that dying species, the must-read book. The countdown to January 2000 will bring many tributes to Ali, an American myth who has come to mean different things to different people. Mostly, though, Ali's story is that of an American original with the courage and the knack to throw himself into the currents of his day. There are times when Ali's anger seems off-putting, especially when he drops his great friend and mentor Malcolm X cold, prodded and manipulated by Malcolm's rivals in the Nation of Islam. But there can be no downplaying the genesis of that anger for a young man growing up black in the South. To those whose first glimpse of Ali came at the Atlanta Games, where he was treated almost as a lovable national mascot, it might be hard to remember the insane realities he faced. Remnick does his part to make sure that forgetting is not an option. This article appeared on page RV - 3 of the San Francisco ChronicleRead more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.... King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero am Books There were mythic sports figures before him Jack Johnson, Babe Ruth, Joe Louis, Joe DiMaggio but when Cassius Clay burst onto the sports scene from his native Louisville in the 1950s, he broke the mold He changed the world of sports and went on to change the world itself As Muhammad Ali, he would become the most recognized face on the planet Ali was a transcendent athThere were mythic sports figures before him Jack Johnson, Babe Ruth, Joe Louis, Joe DiMaggio but when Cassius Clay burst onto the sports scene from his native Louisville in the 1950s, he broke the mold He changed the world of sports and went on to change the world itself As Muhammad Ali, he would become the most recognized face on the planet Ali was a transcendent athlete and entertainer, a heavyweight Fred Astaire, a rapper before rap was born He was a mirror of his era, a dynamic figure in the racial and cultural battles of his time This unforgettable story of his rise and self creation, told by a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, places Ali in a heritage of great American originals.Cassius Clay grew up in the Jim Crow South and came of athletic age when boxers were at the mercy of the mob From the start, Clay rebelled against everything and everyone who would keep him and his people down He refused the old stereotypes and refused the glad hand of the mob And, to the confusion and fury of white sportswriters, who were far comfortable with the self effacing Joe Louis, Clay came forward as a rebel, insistent on his political views, on his new religion, and, eventually, on a new name His rebellion nearly cost him the chance to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world.King of the World features some of the pivotal figures of the 1960s Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, John F Kennedy and its pivotal events the civil rights movement, political assassinations, the war in Vietnam Muhammad Ali is a great hero and a beloved figure in American life King of the World takes us back to the days when his life was a series of battles, inside the ring and out A master storyteller at the height of his powers, David Remnick has written a book worthy of America s most dynamic modern hero.. David Remnick born October 29, 1958 is an American journalist, writer, and magazine editor He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his book Lenin s Tomb The Last Days of the Soviet Empire Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker magazine since 1998 He was named Editor of the Year by Advertising Age in 2000 Before joining The New Yorker, Remnick was a reporter and the Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post He has also served on the New York Public Library s board of trustees In 2010 he published his sixth book, The Bridge The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.Remnick was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, the son of a dentist, Edward C Remnick, and an art teacher, Barbara Seigel He was raised in Hillsdale, New Jersey, in a secular Jewish home with, he has said, a lot of books around He is also childhood friends with comedian Bill Maher He graduated from Princeton University in 1981 with an A.B in comparative literature there, he met writer John McPhee and helped found The Nassau Weekly Remnick has implied that after college he wanted to write novels, but due to his parents illnesses, he needed a paying job there was no trust fund to rely on Remnick wanted to be a writer, so he chose a career in journalism, taking a job at The Washington Post He is married to reporter Esther Fein of The New York Times and has three children, Alex, Noah, and Natasha He enjoys jazz music and classic cinema and is fluent in Russian.He began his reporting career at The Washington Post in 1982 shortly after his graduation from Princeton His first assignment was to cover the United States Football League After six years, in 1988, he became the newspaper s Moscow correspondent, which provided him with the material for Lenin s Tomb He also received the George Polk Award for excellence in journalism.Remnick became a staff writer at The New Yorker in September, 1992, after ten years at The Washington Post.Remnick s 1997 New Yorker article Kid Dynamite Blows Up, about boxer Mike Tyson, was nominated for a National Magazine Award In 1998 he became editor, succeeding Tina Brown Remnick promoted Hendrik Hertzberg, a former Jimmy Carter speechwriter and former editor of The New Republic, to write the lead pieces in Talk of the Town, the magazine s opening section In 2005 Remnick earned 1 million for his work as the magazine s editor.In 2003 he wrote an editorial supporting the Iraq war in the days when it started In 2004, for the first time in its 80 year history, The New Yorker endorsed a presidential candidate, John Kerry.In May 2009, Remnick was featured in a long form Twitter account of Dan Baum s career as a New Yorker staff writer The tweets, written over the course of a week, described the difficult relationship between Baum and Remnick, his editor.Remnick s biography of President Barack Obama, The Bridge, was released on April 6, 2010 It features hundreds of interviews with friends, colleagues, and other witnesses to Obama s rise to the presidency of the United States The book has been widely reviewed in journals.In 2010 Remnick lent his support to the campaign urging the release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of ordering the murder of her husband by her lover and adultery.In 2013 Remnick 81 was the guest speaker at Princeton University Class Day.Remnick provided guest commentary and contributed to NBC coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia including the opening ceremony and commentary for NBC News.. A viral Book King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero "It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up."-- Muhammad AliPre-Review Smack Talk:I will review this sucker tomorrow. David Remnick better quake. I'm coming for this book. I read it from cover to cover. I know the words better than Remnick could hope to ever know it. Of course he wrote it, because the words ran from him. I know Remick's words better than his mamma knows him. Tomorrow. Yes. I'll give this book till tomorrow. And then I'm coming. I'm coming with a pen. I'm coming with poetry. I'm coming with the majesty of Muhammad Ali. The G.O.A.T.. The Greatest. The man who fought a nation. The man who fought for a people. A pretty man. So pretty. He was a butterfly that Nabokov couldn't catch or pin. Tomorrow I will take on this book and take my piece in three rounds. But the Man and the book will have to wait for tomorrow. Tonight I've got a bed to contend with. And I'm the greatest sleeper of all time.Weight in:I read the hardback version of Remnick's book, which was 306 pages (326 with acknowledgement, sources, and index). My edition was a 4th printing, 1st Edition from 1998. I also had the Audible/audio version which I debated about listening to because it was abridged and I really hate abridged books (in any format). No. Hate is far too simple a word. I despise abridgments. I abhor them. I abase and disdain them. It is a lazy and cheap way to do an audio-recording and all you end up with is an ugly, deformed homunculus of the original. Go all the way or go home David. I mean for GOD's sake Remnick. Why would you let people abridge the audio version? Your audio choice was just stupid. It was a 6-hour abridgment which usually translates into cutting 1/3 to 1/2 of this book. So, I ended up listening while I did work around the house and at points where it jumped, I'd rn over to the book and read the gaps. Seriously. I had to read the gaps because you couldn't pay for Dick Hill to read the whole thing or Brilliance Audio thought it was only going to sell if you cut it from 12 hours to 6? Stupid. Reckless. Chump. IT wasn't like this was some William T. Vollmann 3000+ word book on Violence. This was a 300 page book on Muhammad Ali. The Greatest. Do you not respect yourself or do you not resect Ali? Or did you just let the producers talk you down?And yes Remnick, I know you are the editor of the New Yorker, but really man. Besides a nice bio of Obama and your Russia books, what have you done for me lately? Get out there and write something more. Or hell, don't write. Just stop cutting. Stop leaving the bloody body of your own work on the audio floor.Round 1: Poem by AliClay comes out to meet Liston And Liston starts to retreatIf Liston goes back an inch farther He'll end up in a ringside seat.Clay swings with his left, Clay swings with his right,Look at young Cassius Carry the fight.Liston keeps backing But there's not enough roomIt's a matter of time Till Clay lowers the boom.Now Clay lands with a right, What a beautiful swing,And the punch raises the Bear Clean out of the ring.Liston is still rising And the ref wears a frown,For he can't start counting, Till Sonny goes down.Now Liston is disappearing from view.The crowd is going frantic,But radar stations have picked him upSomewhere over the Atlantic.Who would have thought When they came to the fight?That they'd witness the launching Of a human satellite.Yes the crowd did not dreamWhen they put up the moneyThat they would see A total eclipse of the Sonny!I am the greatest!Round 2: The Greatest!The book does a nice job of painting a broad picture of Muhammad Ali (and young Cassius Clay) while focusing primarily on the Liston - Clay fight that made him famous. It touches on a lot of the major points of Clay's life: Growing up in Kentucky, Finding Boxing, High School, the Olympics, The Louisville Syndicate, First Fights, the Liston Fight #1 (FL), the Liston Fight #2 (ME), the Nation of Islam, the Women of Ali (or the Pelvic Missionary) Malcolm X, the Vietnam War, Floyd Patterson, Later Years, Parkinson's Disease.Some of these were new things, but many were just told well and told with details that were both surprising and intimate. I loved the whole early relationship between Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. It is hard to walk away from this type of book without loving the subject a bit more, no matter where you started from.Round 3: The Knock-outThe end of the book was sad and beautiful. Remnick talking with an Ali that is saddled with age and disease. The Man, however, is also at peace. Remnick does a good job of exploring not just the limits of boxing, but the largeness of man:There is a beauty in it--there is terrible beauty in battle, too, particulary for the noncombatant--but if you meet enough former boxers, if you try to decipher their punch-drunk talk, you begin to wonder. What beauty is worth this?Ali is an American myth who has come to mean many things to many people: a symbol of faith, a symbol of conviction and defiance, a symbol of beauty and skill and courage, a symbol of racial pride, of wit and love. Ali's physical condition is shocking not least because it is an accelerated form of what we all fear, the progression of aging , the unpredictability and danger of life. In Ali we see the frailty even of a man whose job it was to be the most fearsome figure on the globe.Coda: RIP!Asked how he would like to be remembered Muhammad Ali once remarked: "I'll tell you how I'd like to be remembered: as a black man who won the heavyweight title and who was humorous and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up at him and who helped as many of his people as he could--financial and also in their fight for freedom, justice, and equality. As a man who wouldn't embarrass them. As a man who tried to unite his people through the faith of Islam that he found when he listened to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And if all that's asking too much, then I'd guess I'd settle for being remembered only as a great boxing champion who became a preacher and a champion of his people. And I wouldn't even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was."
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