Oliver Bateman's Reviews > The Harder They Fall

The Harder They Fall by Budd Schulberg
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May 11, 12

Read from March 13 to May 11, 2012

A propulsive and extraordinarily bleak semi-roman à clef about the "career" of enormous heavyweight boxer Primo Carnera (here represented as "Toro Molina," an equally prodigious Argentine peasant), The Harder They Fall is among the best novels I've ever read. There's nothing tricky about what Schulberg is doing, and that's for the best: the prose is clean and tight, and the dialogue is razor-sharp. Not one of the characters in the book, from fast-talking PR man Eddie Lewis to greedy mobster Nick Latka to Molina himself, is the least bit likable, and the miserable conclusion to which Schulberg builds is nothing short of extraordinary. The descriptions of the boxing action are top-notch (Schulberg's two collections of writing about boxing, Ringside and Sparring with Hemingway, aren't exactly Liebling-quality, but they're very good), with special praise reserved for the match where massive Native American heavyweight "Chief Thunderbird" decides to make his "job" (i.e., his pre-arranged loss to Molina) look more believable by putting chicken wire around his lips and gums. A must-read, to be sure.
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