If you’re planning on going out and celebrating New Year’s Eve tonight then you might want to leaf through Fight first. Eugene S. Robinson is a bit of a polymath. He’s a musician, a writer, an actor, and a fighter. He puts two of those skills to use in his first book. This is not an instructional manual, however. There are a few sidebars about particular punches or styles (including a chapter on jailhouse fighting) but really Fight is an overview about fighting as a pursuit and Robinson comes at it from every angle and almost always with a mix of blue language, erudition, and humor. As evidence of the humor, here is a sampling of the chapter titles: “Fighting: Why Not?” “Curbs, Car Doors & You” “So Your Ear’s Been Bitten by Mike Tyson…” “Holiday on Ice, or, What to Do When Confronted by an Angry Canadian with a Stick” and my favorite “So You’re Knocked Out: Options to Consider.”
You do not have to like fighting to like this book. I have spent the better part of my adult life deftly avoiding fights and I don’t even watch Mixed Martial Arts fighting on television but I enjoyed Fight from start to finish. Some of the pieces appeared previously in magazines so the chapters are pretty self-contained and you can pick up and leave off at will. While there is a lot of machismo on display – lists of the best fights in movies, the worst fights in movies, and the greatest sports brawls are included – Robinson is the perfect guide through this world. Most of his own fights discussed are ones where he woke up on the mat and he freely admits that he’s never won a fight that he started. Even if you cannot fathom why anyone in the world would fight for the fun of it you will get something out of reading this. If nothing else, it gives you a sociological perspective on why someone would relish being in physical danger.
If you would like to read more about why people hit each other, check out When Buddhists Attack: the Curious Relationship between Zen and the Martial Arts by Jeffrey K. Mann at the Virginia Beach Public Library. Be safe and have a Happy New Year!