While her academic peers chatted on the other side of the building, Howley took a seat on a bench in a different conference room and bore witness to her first cage fights. Before her, on an octagonal platform lit by a lofted spotlight and enclosed by a six-foot-tall chain link fence, two men “tore at one another with kicks and strikes, knees and elbows,” crumpling cartilage and cracking bones. Howley found herself genuinely mesmerized—instead of looking away or covering her eyes, she leaned in.
We talk often about fearless writers. We use words like "brave" and "unflinching on book jackets and in glowing blurbs when the protagonists within enact dangerous behavior without moral-of-the-story appeals and sensationalized flourishes.
Steve Almond’s new book, Against Football, asks essentially the same question. How is it that a game which “in its exalted moments, is not just a sport, but a lovely and intricate form of art” also legitimizes, as he says, “a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia”?
Everyone knows something about the power of things, how they remind us of our actions over time, how they have the power to delight or disappoint us. I’m referring here to what Katy Simpson Smith calls “oddments”—the items we don’t mean to collect, that we can’t quite bring ourselves to throw away, that we put on a desk in a spare room and forget.
As a black man with a predilection for the Southern white woman experience, Als can write about white girls in salacious, exploitative detail like Freud writes about Dora. He knows our every move, and everything wrong with those moves, and he appreciates that we make them anyway.