Thrown, Kerry Howley
Thrown, Kerry Howley
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and Notable Book of 2014
An NPR best book of 2014
A Slate Book Review best book of 2014
Time magazine’s #2 best book of nonfiction for 2014
An October 2014 American Booksellers Association IndieNext Pick
Listed as one of the “Big Indie Books of 2014” by Publisher’s Weekly
In this darkly funny work of literary nonfiction, a bookish young woman insinuates herself into the lives of two cage fighters—one a young prodigy, the other an aging journeyman. Acclaimed essayist Kerry Howley follows these men for three years through the bloody world of mixed martial arts as they starve themselves, break bones, fail their families and form new ones in the quest to rise from remote Midwestern fairgrounds to packed Vegas arenas. With penetrating intelligence and wry humor, Howley exposes the profundities and absurdities of this American subculture.
Kerry Howley's work has appeared in Harper's, The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, and frequently in Bookforum. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa, where she was an Arts Fellow and the Provost's Visiting Writer in Nonfiction.
Praise for Thrown:
“The most bizarre and fascinating book I’ve read this year. . . . The precision of Howley’s prose reminds me of Joan Didion or David Foster Wallace: she’s so involved with the fight, it’s as if she were trying to eat it with words. Howley writes like someone who’s been flayed, all nerve endings exposed, no barriers between her and the world around her.”
—Lev Grossman, Time magazine
"This sui generis debut threatens to remap the entire genre of nonfiction. . . . Howley’s brilliant prose is as dexterous and doughty as the fighters she trails, torquing into philosophy, parody, and sweat-soaked poetry."
—Publishers Weekly, starred boxed review
"Howley manages to conjure the moments that make fights so thrilling. And it is striking that she manages to do so in a book that is also a very funny satire of the ways in which elites — including, famously, Norman Mailer — often make a fetish of violence and the people who commit it. . . . as dark and funny as anything I have read this year."
“A truly gripping account of the insular world of MMA—the history, the personalities, the injuries, the money, the white-hot fighters and the foundering ones. . . . Howley stepped into the cage and stepped out of it with something new and stunning."
“Engrossing . . . . Thrown is a sympathetic book about people who might otherwise be written off as dirtbags. . . . an intimate, artful look at violence on the smallest scale.”
"In Thrown, a fresh, funny, and highly cerebral treatise on the philosophical merits of cage fighting, she challenges not only the stigma surrounding the sport but the conventions of literary nonfiction itself."
“Thrown is the only MMA book anyone ever needs to write. . . . This is easily the best inside-fights book ever written.”
“Readers follow the lives of two mixed martial arts fighters—men who fight in cage matches, who starve themselves, bleed, suffer and inflict as much pain as possible on their opponents. And along the way, we consider matters such as masculinity, brutality and fame. It's a mesmerizing read."
“Thrown is a triangle choke, a leglock, a one-two-three sequence of humor, passion, and philosophy. It’s a knockout debut. A round one win."
“I don’t care about cage fighting, ultimate fighting, MMA; Kerry Howley made me care. . . . The book is about fighting, yes, about an extreme sport and some of the men involved, who maybe aren’t, after all, Odysseus or Hector, but possessing of a more earthbound sort of humanity and heroism. It’s about the the strong pull of home, the powerful binds of blood, and the press, everpresent, of time. In what we seek, Howley shows us what we fear.”
“The fight book of our generation has landed. . . . Thrown is a fantastic debut, and an immediate addition to the great canon of fight-lit, down from Jack London to O.Henry to Oates. If you can navigate this breakthrough in nonfiction, you may feel a bit of ecstasy, too. Howley’s contemporaries should feel beat up after reading it; I did.”
"Thrown is Kerry Howley's masterful debut. A work of rigorous nonfiction that's sure to be branded experimental, but that's as involving and page-turning as any book I've read in a while."
"Who can explain what draws a young brilliant writer—and a woman no less—to be mesmerized by the sight of a young man being pummeled in the ring? But out of this passion—maybe obsession—comes a great American story about overlooked heroes, the nature of violence, hope, love and nearly everything else that matters."
—Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men
“Kerry Howley gives us a front row seat to the dark, brutal inner world of cage fighters. About the yearning dream for fame, the way violence becomes both poetry and obsession, and the way life can lift you up or crush you, this isn't just a masterpiece debut, it's an electrifying classic.”
—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You
“Out of the dank basements and glitzy arenas of a brutal sport, Kerry Howley has created a story that is virtuous, rapturous, and utterly consequential. In language that’s as daring as it is astute, she tells the story of two young guys from the middle of America, an overachiever and an underachiever, whom the world, it turns out, has equally little use for. It’s a story we’ve read about a thousand times, and one we’ve seen nothing else like. This is a gloriously heartbreaking debut.”
—John D'Agata, author of About a Mountain and The Lifespan of a Fact
“Lyrical and brutal in its subject matter, the poetic voice within offers humor, heart, and grace from the first page and kept me in awe until the end. This is a powerful book reminiscent of Hemingway’s early work.”
—Frank Bill, author of Crimes in Southern Indiana and Donnybrook