Monday, April 27, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling, excerpt eight)

from The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling:

I have known Whitey for more than twenty years (he had been a trainer for fifteen years before that), and by now I can tell from looking at him whether he thinks genius is lurking just the other side of the horizon. Four years ago he was desperate for talent. Prosperity had ruined the future, he said; any kind just out of school could get a job for sixty dollars a week, and as a consequence dilettantism was rife in boxing. The faintest frown of fortune would send a boy back to well-paid labor. Boys boxed only to attain social prestige. “Garbage,” Whitey said then, when I asked him about the season’s vintage. But this spring he was wearing the expression of an editor who has found two new poets and a woman novelist with an acid talent. The mild recession was not solely responsible, he said, although it had made the boys more serious about boxing as a vocation. He and Freddie had three good fighters training at once—two lightweights and one around ’30 (130 pounds) who could do ’26 to qualify as a featherweight. They also had this animal, Whitey said, who ran fifteen or twenty miles a day on the road and would box fifteen rounds every day if they would let him. Whitey was in the position of the late Max Perkins, with a handful of good established writers and a Thomas Wolfe in training in Brooklyn.

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