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The Allure Of Cage Fighting

"Thrown Is The Only MMA Book Anyone Ever Needs To Write," Deadspin's Tim Marchman declared last year.

"Kerry Howley's Thrown is so good in large part because, so far as possible, she ignores this entire sports-industrial complex in favor of her subjects' humanity. Rankings, purses, pay-per-view orders, judging, won-loss records, sober discussions of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, marketing strategies, and the like come in here only when they're truly unavoidable, and are quickly dismissed. Howley, who spent three years in the company of two serious fighters for this book, is writing about something else entirely.

"What she's interested in is what makes people watch, and what makes them fight. As ridiculous as it seems to the uninitiated - and Howley is both too self-aware not to know how ridiculous it seems, and too self-assured to care - it's the possibility of transcendence, of a moment like the one she experienced watching the first fight she ever saw, held at a convention center in downtown Des Moines in 2010 not far from a phenomenology conference from which she was fleeing."

You'll have to click through to see what that was. And/or maybe Howley will talk about it on Thursday when she speaks at Roosevelt University (5 p.m. in Room 700 of the Gage Building, 18 South Michigan Avenue).

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From Publishers Weekly:

"This sui generis debut threatens to remap the entire genre of nonfiction. Howley, a philosophy student disillusioned by 'academic apple-polishing,' sets out on a quest to find the closest contemporary equivalent to Schopenhauer's concept of an ecstatic experience. She finds it, unexpectedly, in the world of mixed-martial-arts (MMA) fighting

"Howley becomes a 'species of fighterly accoutrement known as a spacetaker,' ingratiating herself into the lives of two cage fighters: Sean Huffman, a smash-nosed, cauliflower-eared veteran with a legacy of losing but never getting knocked out, and Erik Koch, a young, lithe, apprentice-level beginner 'destined for the big shows.'"

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"It is absolutely true that Howley manages to conjure the moments that make fights so thrilling," Alyssa Rosenberg writes for the Washington Post.

"And it is striking that she manages to do so in a book that is also a very funny satire of the ways in which elites - including, famously, Norman Mailer - often make a fetish of violence and the people who commit it."

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"I suppose the first thing to say about Thrown is that it's an effective portrayal of this reality of MMA: no matter how much he's making, the fighter gets fucked," Freddie deBoer writes.

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Here's Howley speaking in Washington, D.C., last year:

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This week's reading, which is free, is presented by Roosevelt's Department of Literature and Languages, its Creative Writing Program and the University's literary magazine Oyez Review. A reception with refreshments begins at 4:30 p.m.

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Comments welcome.

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