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On Bullfighting
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The paperback edition of AL Kennedy's highly acclaimed reflections on the bloodiest of the blood sports. 'AS ARTFUL AS A MATADOR'S FINAL PASS' Esquire

About the Author

A. L. Kennedy has twice been selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists and has won a host of other awards - including the Costa Book of the Year for her novel Day. She lives in Essex.

Reviews

In many respects, it makes sense to assign a book on the ultimate blood sport to a creative writer who, critics say, isn't afraid to deal with pain in her work. Given Scottish novelist Kennedy's (Original Bliss, So I Am Glad) personal struggle with physical pain, her craft, and life itself, the book works successfully as a meditation on a sport that metaphysically deals with "urges to understand the termination of life and to celebrate survival." As an introduction to a sport, however, it fares less well. The author, who accepts the assignment of writing about bullfighting in the wake of the abortive suicide attempt that begins the book, spends much time reflecting on how the corrida ("bullfight") is less a sport than a religion. Readers may grow impatient with Kennedy's carping about present-day breeders producing more docile bulls, the animals' poor straight-ahead vision, tricks designed to slow or otherwise impair the beasts, and the excessive softening up of the bulls by the picadors' lances, complaints that leave scant room for any examination of other aspects of the sport. Recommended only for large sports collections. Jim Burns, Ottumwa P.L., IA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

One of the best books of the year -- Jeanette Winterson
On Bullfighting casts an unofficial eye over a world of male exploit; the public spectacles are treated with a fresh particularity, the inner landscapes of pain with an ardent, high-risk honesty -- Julain Barnes
Informative, minutely observed and beautifully written * Independent *
An ecclectic and fascinating cultural history * Observer *
A strange and beautiful book -- Michael Ignatieff

Perched on the brink of suicide, English novelist Kennedy (Original Bliss) clings to life by busying herself with an assignment to write about bullfighting. She treks to Spain, throbbing from the pain of a displaced disk, and tries "to discover if the elements which seemed so much a part of the corrida death, transcendence, immortality, joy, pain, isolation and fear would come back to [her]." Once there, she dives into the facts of the bullfight, describing its terms, tracing its history and plumbing its feeling. She examines the poetic and morbid ritual while studying Federico GarcĀ”a Lorca's legacy and dwelling in her own recurring despair. She strives to create what Lorca referred to as duende, "any piece of art with `dark notes.' " Thus, she parallels her personal crisis with the fear of the bulls, the precision of the matadors and the tragedy of Lorca's sacrifice in order to contemplate the connection between creativity and self-destruction. Unfortunately, Kennedy's own depression overwhelms the potential of her subject. At times she is so self-deprecating that it is difficult to continue reading, as when she writes: "Too many hotel rooms can cause depression if you count a room as empty with me inside it, which of course, I do." Still, although the reader never experiences the rush of invigoration inherent in the bullfight, Kennedy does find some solace in her project, illustrating that while life might be tenuous, it is also, thankfully, tenacious. (Mar. 27) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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