February 28, 2008


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Fight, by Eugene S. Robinson (spoken word audio on CD, Hydra Head Records, 2008; based on the HarperCollins hardcover book)
By Eric. W. Saeger news@hippopress.com

Allow me, ladies, to save you hundreds of dollars in Cosmo subscriptions by spoon-feeding you the only two things you need to know about your man. First, if we have recently failed in any competitive criteria, especially if it involves advancing ourselves financially, leave us alone to get over it. Any attempt by you to point out the importance of communication during this adjustment period will result in our systematically destroying the relationship from within.

Second: dumb, fat and/or wimpy as we may appear, we all have testosterone and hence have — or like to think we have — our own fighting style, and we want you to acknowledge that we aren’t wimps. And by fighting, of course, I mean fisticuffs. My style, for example, is, unfortunately, of a hair-trigger-or-nothing variety: I faint at the very words “Let’s step outside,” but when I’m ready to go, I want to go now, as in let’s wreck the bar. Thus I haven’t been in a fight since age ten or so: either the guy realizes I’m going to smash something over his head if he breathes wrong, or I get laughed at when the dude doesn’t even know who I am or why I’m red as a beet.

I hate it when they laugh.

A freelance writer for fighting/boxing/martial arts magazines, Eugene Robinson is in appearance the epitome of the big mean black bouncer dude. More terrifying, though, is his excellent command of the King’s English, through which he makes clear that he’s the type who loves to fight. Like a thug-life Othello, he lustily delivers and carefully enunciates every word that has to do with someone being overmatched and getting pounded silly. Fight documents both Robinson’s fighting life and the more interesting interviews he’s held over the years with various “Mr. Tanakas” and other “masters of the fistic arts.”

It begins with Robinson’s first knock-down-drag-out, at age 17. He was an innocent passerby who got dragged into a fracas between some Italians outside a club. Every sentence in the book is visceral enough, but here he relates, in full, his fantasy about getting his pop’s shotgun and coming back for the four-or-whatever dudes who left his ear a stringy, hanging mess.

From here we move on to his quest to become invincible, from taking Kenpo karate classes (“you might as well be studying interpretive dance!”) to his beef-up days at the Hollywood Gold’s Gym (Vin Diesel was a client, blah blah blah — a breathless list of names gets dropped here and elsewhere, making Robinson sound as though he’s giving himself a memory test on our nickel) to learning the dreaded rear naked choke hold.

Prison fighting, or, depending on whom you believe, the lack thereof, is discussed, and that part’s interesting. I shan’t get into too many specifics for the sake of your lunch, but nowadays it’s not really done, having been replaced by the art of “poking,” or shivving. Or so says one guy; another interviewee claims that it does happen, fisticuffs that is, and the trick is to use what’s around you, even if it’s just a bunk bed and a sink. One human-interest factoid that’s revealed is the real reason why child abusers are the traditional punching bags of prison: the inmates miss their own kids, and they take it out on those guys.

Robinson is a very intelligent person relating his favorite subject matter. Like many tough guys, he’s amusing but not really funny, hence there’s room for improvement, especially when his stories get really dark. Not asking for pure comic relief, but it wouldn’t have been the worst idea in the world. B-Eric. W. Saeger