cover image One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing

One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing

Katherine Dunn, . . Schaffner, $16.95 (238pp) ISBN 978-0-9801394-2-6

Novelist Dunn (Geek Love ) collects 22 essays and articles written over the last quarter-century. In 1980, Dunn's then-husband had her watch a fight on TV and from that day forward she was hooked. Soon afterward, Dunn began freelancing boxing pieces to an alternative paper in Oregon, the Willamette Weekly . Over the years, Dunn has written on such subjects as hand wraps and cuts, on fighters famous (Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler) and obscure (Andy Minsker) and on the phenomenon of women's boxing. Her articles have appeared in publications that include Playboy , Sports Illustrated and Mother Jones . Although Dunn's fiction is celebrated for its style, her essay prose rarely rises above the journeyman. Dunn seems to have a hard time deciding on her authorial position from essay to essay—advocate, journalist or eyewitness—and the lack of focus leaves the reader equally confused. Overall, the collection lacks unity: since Dunn is producing occasional pieces for various markets, she recycles the same details in different places, especially with the pieces on women and boxing. In a few articles, however, like “Defending Tyson” and the Minsker pieces, Dunn unveils insight that exceeds the merely perfunctory. While Dunn may be an old pro when it comes to fiction, with boxing she remains an amateur, albeit an enthusiastic one. (May)