cover image Thrown


Kerry Howley. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-936747-92-4

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.)