Kerry Howley's work has appeared in "The Paris Review," "New York Times Magazine," the "Atlantic," "Wall Street Journal," "Slate," and frequently in "Bookforum." She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-09-01
- Reviewer: Staff
This sui generis debut threatens to remap the entire genre of nonfiction. Howley, a philosophy student disillusioned by “academic apple-polishing,” sets out on a quest to find the closest contemporary equivalent to Schopenhauer’s concept of an ecstatic experience. She finds it, unexpectedly, in the world of mixed-martial-arts (MMA) fighting. Howley becomes a “species of fighterly accoutrement known as a ‘spacetaker,’ ” ingratiating herself into the lives of two cage fighters: Sean Huffman, a smash-nosed, cauliflower-eared veteran with a legacy of losing but never getting knocked out, and Erik Koch, a young, lithe, apprentice-level beginner “destined for the big shows.” Howley’s brilliant prose is as dexterous and doughty as the fighters she trails, torquing into philosophy, parody, and sweat-soaked poetry. At times, the narrative is difficult to follow, while the contrast between her highbrow analysis and the aggressive MMA subculture can be disorienting. Her year-long immersion in the sport, however, proves as captivating as any blood-spattered spectacle. (Oct.)