Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Review: The Professor in the Cage, by Jonathan Gottschall

The Premise:

An adjunct English professor takes up Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), AJ Jacobs-style*, in an attempt to discover “why men fight and why we like to watch.”

The Good:

Prof. Gottschall has a good sense of the dramatic—teasing his fight at the beginning—and maintains good pacing throughout. His straightforward style makes the book easily accessible and overall the book is a quick read. He has clearly done his research (much of it firsthand-to-hand; couldn’t resist) and this book is a treasure trove of fight-related factoids. I particularly liked the history of dueling and the exploration of the Martial Arts (I was once a devout practitioner).

The Bad:

When Prof. Gottschall focuses on fighting, he is well matched and delivers targeted facts, insights and knowledge. When he strays into discussions on masculinity, gender and society, he seems to be punching a bit above his weight. It’s not that he is necessarily wrong or right on any one thing, but there are times when it feels like he is trying to make the facts fit the fight.

The Verdict:

Read it. If you are a fan of boxing, fighting, Martial Arts, MMA or ninjas, it’s well worth a read. If you aren’t, but want a voyeur’s view into the motivations behind the maulers and brawlers, you’ll also want to check it out. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Adventures in Book Sale-ing: A Series of Unfortunate Titles

I have a confession to make: I love old pulpy mysteries. The hard-boiled detectives. The overuse of the adjective "hard-boiled". The hyperbolic titles, such as "A Fistful of Death" or "Pay-off in Blood" (actually a pretty good one, by Brett Halliday). But, like a desperate punch thrown by a self-confessed murderer/ess, sometimes the titles just don't land. Also, I didn't buy any of these.

Exhibit A: Don't Die Under the Apple Tree
Accused of: Being preposterous--it's okay to die, just not THERE--and overly confident--First in a new series!
Verdict: Guilty on all counts.

Exhibit B: Dumb Witness
Accused of: Being overly judgmental and confusing--dumb as in stupid or dumb as in unable to speak or both?
Verdict: Guilty of an unnecessary pejorative

Exhibit C: 10 Little ... did I read that correctly???
Accused of: Racism.
Verdict: Guilty in the UK. Not Guilty in the USA.
Evidence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_Then_There_Were_None