Sunday, April 19, 2015

"This Book Is As Good As A Chuck Wepner Rematch"



I bought this book for two reasons: (1) the interview with Nick Tosches that Lydia Lunch published in her book "Will Work for Drugs" and (2) I really liked the title, "Night Train". Now that I've read it, I can't remember why I was interested in the first place; that over-used and run-into-the-ground saying, "I couldn't care less", really does apply to me. On the book cover is a quote from Chuck Wepner, "Nick Tosches writes like Sonny Liston hits"; that explains why Liston was never much admired, and the book isn’t either. A new quote might be, "This book is as good as a Chuck Wepner rematch." (Spoiler alert: never watch a Wepner rematch! You will go into a coma.)

The portrait of Liston is a man who was a burnout, a loser-has-been, a bum and a thug even before he was born. It's as if he was destined to become heavyweight champion simply in order to fulfill his REAL destiny: being a strong-arm mob-type enforcer with muscle, a two-bit thug barely able to make an “X” on his boxing contracts. Maybe he wasn't legally "stupid", but he was as close as he could get and still tie his shoes: illiterate, easily manipulated, easily persuaded, duped and underneath it all, basically he was a sociopath as well as a defeatist. 

As far as the book itself is concerned, Tosches fills it with plenty of uninteresting details about who lived where and for how long and what the address was; there are copies of police reports, hear-say, senate-hearing transcripts, and real-or-imagined conversations that may or may not have occurred between celebrity wannabes and fight-world nobodies. (To make it go faster, I scanned a lot of pages with my eyes and saved myself a lot of time.) Of course, every now and then, there was something pertinent about Liston, but it's very slow reading -- plodding, flat-footed, dull… just like Liston himself, so in that case the book is a successful parody of the fight racket and a boxing racketeer.  

Too bad the worst part of the book is the writing. For example, Tosches uses 254 pages to tell this story:

1.   Liston born, abused
2.   Juvenile delinquent
3.   Thug
4.   Boxing corruption
5.   Union corruption
6.   Organized crime
7.   Management corruption
8.   Heavyweight champion
9.   Loses title
10. Eventually dies, or is killed, or some other conspiracy theory.

Tosches spends a lot of energy trying to create a "mystique", something to make more out of Liston than what’s really "there"! He often uses a form of stream-of-consciousness that's more like a trickle than a stream, or more like drip-drip-drip from a leaky faucet. Too much of the book is about so-and-so, who went to this-or-that hotel bar, and sat in such-and-such a booth, and ordered a drink or dinner or a sandwich or a candy bar, and used a pay phone in a lobby to call some number (and Tosches gives us the exact number), and he calls a gangster or a boss and threatens to do this-or-that, at such-and-such a time, on one street corner or another, to meet with this crooked promoter, or that underworld fight manager, or this mobbed-up gym coach, or a "friend of ours"….. and by the way, bring some muscle. The book is a good obituary for Liston and if you like reading books that might be written by someone who’s drunk, on drugs, or both, then by all means this book is perfect for you.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Irrelevant and Unnecessary (Original Amazon book review published 4.10.15)

The reason I bought this book in the first place, and actually read it, is because of a book by Lydia Lunch, "Will Work for Drugs". (see Amazon review: "This was the first book by Lydia Lunch that I've read, and I will definitely read more! It was fast-paced, flirty, sexual, urban, modern, rebellious and sacrilegious all at the same time. As good as it was, as provocative in a poetic style, the interviews she published in the last part was worth reading the entire book just to get to the end, read the interviews and find the list of new books from writers who are new to me! I will absolutely be reading those books.)

Lunch did an interview with Jerry Stahl that was incredibly great. So I bought like, four of his books just based on her interview. "Pain Killers" is the first one I read; I'll probably read the others just because I paid money for them, but I'm not expecting too much. The point is, I didn't really care for at least one-third of "Killers". The first part, literally Part One, was OK, interesting, kept me coming back for more of the same, hoping for I-don't-know-what and settling for less than that.

Part Two was irrelevant and unnecessary; I barley finished it with any enthusiasm left for life itself. I closed the last page of the book wondering "what the hell was that?" Why had I wasted so much of my time reading this book? Was it really wasted, or did I transform space and time? What was the point of reading it? None, obviously: it was an exercise in pure-reading for the sake of reading with my eyes moving across a page, turning those pages one after the other, carrying the book from front room to bedroom until I was done with it and could slide it in a book shelf between two other books because all three are the same height and they match-up!

I can't recommend this book with any seriousness; but it gave me something to do as I checked my mobile phone for emails and text messages.