08 January 2015

Review: Thrown

Thrown by Kerry Howley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It figures that it would take a columnist from a libertarian magazine to get me to be fascinated by MMA. Or CM Punk. One of the two, but, either way, Thrown was not previously down my alley and ended up being one of the better "nonfiction" reads I've taken in of late.

To call it a book about mixed martial arts isn't really fair, because there's not a lot about MMA here. Granted, there's information about some of the wrinkles, and the book does assume some basic knowledge, but this is less about cage fighting and more about the cage fighters - one, following a post-read Google search, is at least somewhat known, and one that didn't really seem to pan out. We get a glimpse into their lives, into what it's like to train, what it's like to be around an MMA fighter, and so on. It's immersive journalism in a sense, but it's also a little more than that. It kind of takes down the spectacle of the whole MMA "thing" a bit, a peek behind the veil, and it's constructed in such a way that it feels like you're part of the observation process instead of reading about it.

If there is a flaw in the book, it's that the tone feels a lot more like a long-form magazine article that would end up in one of the more serious publications than a book. It's not the sort of traditional narrative you come to expect, perhaps it's very "new journalism" and I'm just an old man reader archetype, but it was jarring from time to time until I got used to it.

With that said, it should be added that there's a wrinkle to this book that does throw (heh) a bit of the narrative into question. I don't want to give it away, as the information (to a point) is still solid, just... tweaked. I don't know how to describe it a bit.

Overall, really, this was a fascinating read. It's a good example of a book I read nonfiction for on purpose - I didn't know how interested I'd be in this aspect of sports or entertainment until I read about it. I still don't think I'll be watching MMA - it's a bit brutal for my taste - but I've come out with an appreciation for what it's about and the people involved with it, even in the state it's presented in. Very interesting, very strange, very much worth the time to read.

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