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September 21, 1975 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1975-09-21

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Page Four


Sunday, September 21, 1975

Page Four THE MICHIGAN DAILY Sunday, September 21, 1975



Fighting a battle against the
fears that strangle feeling

Muhammed Redux: Norman Mailer


epic view of the Ali-Foreman fight

LAND by Louise Gluck. Echo
Press, 42 pp., $6.95.
on Marshland is even more
intense than her first book, and
the strident petulance and self-
pity that filled a number of the
poems in Firstborn (1968) have
dissolved. In their place stands
a more honest sorrow and a
more sensual lyricism. The
voice comes from deeper in the
The subject of many of these
poems is love - love between

man and woman, between child
and parent. But it is the love of
the possessed, whose wills are
not their own, but who must act
out, much to their sorrow, the
tired and destructive desires of
the dead. In Firstborn, Ms.
Gluck seemed intent on blaming
her lovers and relatives, but
here she sees the loneliness and
frustration that make the par-
ental ghosts so restless:
My father is standing on a
railroad platform.
Tears pool in hid eyes, as
though the face
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were the face of someone
he was once. But the other has
as my father watches, he
turns away,
drawing the shade over his
goes back to his reading.
And she sees that the barren
satisfactions are also her own:
... and to select death, O yes
I can
believe that of my body.
jN THESE poems women are
not merely the victims of so-
cialization and male selfishness
but, like men, prisoners of im-
printedpatternssofdesire. Na-
ture is viewed as a "green, poi-
soned landscape," a landscape
of "the barrenness/of harvest
or pestilence." Even the moon
is "toothed". Emotional and
sexual longings are felt as nat-
ural forces which cannot be re-
sisted, - yet surrender leads to
the shipwreck of hope and to
a slow and anguished deteriora-
Although the poet occasional-
ly expresses a wish to be free
of her prophecies, or imagines
a state of freedom, she is not
particularly hopeful, and even
"The Magi," the legendary wise
men, are merely those who have
learned to recognize the old
landmarks, the same signposts
on the doomed journey toward
other selves. In "Gretel in Dark-
ness," Gretel does not escape to
live happily ever after, but finds
that the old murder haunts her,
that her father's protection has
become a new kind of imprison-
ment, that she is alone without
even Hansel to be her compan-
ion in sadness, and that the old
house of tragedy and fear now
lives within her own soul:
. Hansel,
we are there still and it is
real, real,
that black forest and the fire
in earnest.

until your whole life reduces
to nothing but waking up
morning after 'morning
cramped, and the bright sun
shining on its tusks.
LOVE HAS a number of guises
Lin The House on Marshland,
but all of its dresses are black.
Love is the lure that draws one
into stunting and stunted rela-
tionships, or itis the spell that
binds the defeated together, or
it may even be the means of
transmitting the "contagion,"
the deadening compulsions, from
generation to generation.
But for now it must be enough
for the poet that at the end of
this book she appears to be leav-
ing the man with whom she has
lived in unrelieved sadness,
hopefully to begin a different
kind of life.
It is night for the last time.
For the last time your hands
gather on my body.
Tomorrow it will be autumn.
We will sit together on the
watching the dry leaves drift
over the village
like the letters we will burn,
one by one, in our separate
THE HOUSE On Marshland is
a mesmerizing work; it has
the strange beauty of those
bleak landscapes in which the
heart recognizes itself. And per-
haps, despite appearances, it is
even a comforting book to the
extent that all genuine art, in
its sensuality and intimacy, is
comforting. It is comforting, too,

THE FIGHT by Norman Mail-
er. New York: Little, Brown;
239 pp., $7.95.
WHILE Muhammed Ali was
in training last November
for his encounter with George
Foreman, he responded to a re-
porter's question by saying: "If
I win, I'm going to be the Black
Henry Kissinger . . .", and the
statement, instead of register-
ing as hollow pre-fight bravado,
carried the substantial weight of
real possibility. Fascinated by
that, Norman Maileratoyed with
the idea of Ali as a twentieth
century prophet, a world lead-
er, "president not only of Amer-
ica, or even a United Africa, but
leader of half the Western
world, leader doubtless of fu-
tur Black and Arab republics."
Fresh from his extended liter-
ary tribute to "graffiti", Mailer
was on the track of another
cultural phenomenon.
A good novelist but a better
journalist, Mailer is at the top
of his form in his new book,
The Fight, an account of last
year's' Ali-Foreman fight in
Zaire (formerly the Congo). As
a top-flight reporter, Mailer gets
close to the event and its par-
ticipants; he is with the fighters
during their interviews and
while they work-out, he is in
their dressing room before the
fight, at ringside to . call the
punches, and with Ali in the
minutes after his victory to hear
his strangely subdued voice. But
'of course the book amounts to
much more than a straight de-
scription of an important athlet-,
ic event; Mailer's intellectual
and emotional reactions supply
an endless chain of surprises.
The fight itself is safe history;
most of us remember how
Foreman strove mightily to bat-
ter his opponent into submission
and how Ali used the ropes to
weaken the larger man, how in
the eighth round he slipped
through Foreman's sagging de-
fenses to tag him with the fatal
shots. Mailer records the fight
and attempts to understand it in
a context as wide, untamed and
mysterious as the African con-
PEFORE embarking for Zaire,
Mailer pored over Bantu

the clear germ of wisdom that stylistic danger can he reach descriptive verve seems to crest
was there - that humans are the intensity of feeling he needs and suggest that just as the
forces, not beings - coincided to write well. Normally the one punch is the center of the fight,
so closely with his own instincts taking the risks is a persona, his rendering of it is the center
and provided so seductive a con- variously called in past work of the book: "Foreman's arms
cept that he chose to read the the "reporter", the "writer", flew out to the side like a man
confrontation in terms of this vi- "Aquarius"; in this work sim- with a parachute jumping out of
tal force - in Congolese, "N'go- ply "Norman". Unhappily this a plane, and in this doubled-
lo". Mailer's sensibility is high- celebrated ego dwells to need- over position, he tried to wander
ly receptive to supernatural less excess upon itself - taking out to the center of the ring.
forces; years ago while report- stock, ruminating-and it seems All the while -his eyes were on
ing on the Apollo mission to the as though the writer, continual- Ali and he looked up with no
moon he discussed "magic" en- ly losing the threat of his nar- anger as if Ali, indeed, was the
tering into the nuts and bolts of rative, drops gratefully into self- man he knew best in the world
technology when a machine act- analysis. and would see him on his dying
ed up as though it had a mind Mailer can definitely deliver
of its own. So when, for exam- the goods however, and the book day . . . He went over like a
ple, Mailer calls Ali's sorcery is filled with insights the reader six-foot sixty-year-old butler who
"a powerful voice in the fearful can delight in. In those moments has just heard tragic news, yes,
and magical zone between the when he is characterizing peo- fell over all of a long collapsing
living and the dead," he is only ple and situations around him,
indulging a mystical apprehen- Mailer is at his luminous best;
sion of the world; and it be- he proposes a basic difference: Champion in sections, and Ali
comes a kind of sustained ele- while sizing-up the two fighters revolved with him in a close
.*.:::.*.::::: *:::: .::::::*. ::2e:: a . . . . . . . ..mm a~m mm us m m. . .o m

The paths laid out in the in that, as Camus said, people
haunted forest of the mind pro- come closest together when they
vide, a way to go, but without a share their loneliness,
meaningful or satisfying goal.
To achieve the goal is to end all Lawrence Russ, a student in,
possibility of fulfillment, the L school i a three-time
The set paths lead to lives in
which possessiveness passes for Hopwood Award winner inI
kindness, and in which the self poetry. He has also recently re-
is dried out and ground down by ceived the Academy of Ameri-
those who claim to protect it. can Poets prize and the Mi-
. ssubstantial kindness, thatIchael R. Gutterman Award for
is always eyeing you, capoR.
like a large animal on a rug, poetry,


"One reason Ali in-

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personality invariably}
suggests he would not
hurt an average man. .:
Whereas Foreman of -
fers full menace. In
any nightmare of car-
nage, he would go on
and on."
vation of the ordinary, in which"Indeed, one reason Ali inspired
® the unremarkable - jogging love was that his personality in-
with Ali, watching Foreman at variably suggested he would not
ping-pong - assumes a new di- hurt an average man, merely
mension of meaning. dispose of each attack by a
Occasionally his mystical minimal move and go on to the
speculationgrows to ludicrous next. Whereas Foreman offered
proportions: one evening before full menace. In any ghtmare
the fight Mailer steps out onto of carnage, he would go on and
the balcony of his seventh floor on'

Ali was


the man he

knew best in the world
and would see him on

apartment; the
protected by a
sudden intuitive
that by stepping
his life on the
shift the tide of

balcony is un-
parapet. In a
leap he knows
out and risking
ledge he will
battle in favor

Icircle, hand primed to hit him
one more time, a wholly inti-
mate escort to the floor."
A T THIS RATE - the figura-
tive level subsides only,
slightly -- the sum of The
Fight's parts finally adds up to
more than eight rounds of box-
ing in Zaire. Far more. Mailer's
epic frame-of-reference effort-
lessly enlarges people and
events to a more impressive
scale; when Ali regains his
title the axis of the world as-
sumes a new tilt. It has been
said that if ever a reporter is
needed to cover the Second
Coming, Mailer is the man for
the job. One finishes The Fight
wondering if that Event hasn't
already occurred.

"All the while, Fore-
man's eyes were on Ali
and he looked up with
no anger, as if, indeed,

his dying day.

of Muhammad Ali: "He knew
Muhammad's chances would be
greater if he did it than if he
didn't. And was furious at the
vanity. Ali did not need his pal-
try magic . . . Of course, con-
sidering Foreman, Ali might,
need all the help he could get."
The risks Mailer takes in both
his private and professional life,
of course, constitute a great
part of his charm; it's as if
only by courting physical and

. I

and metaphorical gifts are
fully and marvelously displayed
in his blow-by-blow account of
the battle. It is almost as if hej
tries to do on a diminutive scale
what Melville did for whaling
and Hemingway did for bull-
fighting: define the profession
by supplying the reader with a
dazzling excess of information
and with the complex mechan-
ics and subtleties of literary


The reader begins to totally
sense the "machismo" of con-
tending forces. When the fatal Jm Hill is 4 graduate stu-
blow is finally landed, Mailer's dent in English.


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