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Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  554 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Sparring Partners

In the fall of 1984, after Raymond Carver's Cathedral came out, I got a letter from a former professor of mine, the best writing teacher I ever had. It was in his class three years earlier that I'd first been exposed to Carver's stories. It was under his tutelage that I came fully to appreciate Carver's idiosyncratic, totemic

Paperback, 312 pages
Published January 12th 2000 by Little, Brown & Company (first published 1998)
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Paul Bryant
I love this guy Thom Jones but I hate his name. It looks like a really bad career move. He must have had to say a million times "no, not that Tom Jones, I'm Thom with a H, you think Tom What's New Pussycat Jones would be writing books called The Pugilist At Rest? He wouldn't be able to see his keyboard for all the panties. Okay sorry, that probably came across a little snappy. But every time, every time... Thom. With a H." And his fans like me have to say pretty much the same. It's tiresome. Als ...more
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, specficially men

Thom Jones captures Dick-Lit, in a prolific way that is both thoughtful and ugly.

Every short story oozes a touch of masculinity and has the reader astonished that a former maintenance man for Iowa State not only wrote these amazing pieces, but also has been able to form a secure career in the literary world by doing so.

One of the best books I've ever read. Hands down.

John Pappas
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know if Jones could sustain or replicate in his third collection the momentum he built in his staggering first book of stories, but he surpasses that knock-out collection with twelve new stories about a handful of Schopenhauer-addicted ne'er-do-wells and knuckleheads. There is a greater depth of character and more skillful deployment of tension and release at work in these stories. The sheer force of his first collection is tempered by defter story construction and pacing -- the stories ...more
Tom McDade
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-fiction
"Jones's world is as atmospheric as a song by Bob Dylan or Leonard or Tom Waits...Spending time with Jones's characters battle-worn eccentrics leaves you feeling bruised but also elated."
-Kate Sekules, Salon

Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

varied,powerful, funny, dark, relatable, intense, great book. this is as good as short stories get. just amazing. knocked me out.
Patrick Faller
Uneven. "Tarantula" and "A Midnight Clear" stand at opposite ends of the sad-and-tender meets barely-restrained-rage spectrum, and showcase the depth of Jones's range as a writer, but they're overshadowed by the macho war stories and others; "I Love You, Sophia Western" shocks, as does "The Comforts of Home." These stories seem to express Jones's aesthetic more completely. I wanted to like the long story, "You Cheated, You Lied," but the narrator's tendency to reduce his sexual encounters to one ...more
Ryan Williams
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost as good as Pugilist, better than Cold Snap. Why did he stop after those three collections?
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Thom Jones book I've read, and I was impressed. There's something really earthy about this writing, or maybe down to earth. It's tempting, because of his many boxing stories, to make a lot of boxing analogies about his writing, but I guess that'd be trite at this point. Still, the writing is really solid, and he does punch the hell out of his characters. No one has it easy; very few catch a break. But the stories aren't bleak; they can be quite funny.

Jones reminds me a little
Axel Ainglish
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shockingly wide registry, this author leads you from black humour to sheer poetry in his always good, some very interesting short stories. a genre in which, really, he excells. Speaking about Thom Jones implies Literature with capital letters, have known no one not liking it after reading. On the contrary, we all keep waiting new books about this very singular writer. Having written only three, this ex marine, ex boxer winner of a hundred and fifty K.O. victories, one would say before reading hi ...more
Found this book on a remainder table at the Book Revue in Huntington. The title rang a bell with me. I'd heard it mentioned somewhere before- I think. Not sure where though. I glanced through a few pages- and the writing looked pretty good. The blurbs on the back and the general look and feel of the book also sold me. His writing is fluid. Words- sentences- paragraphs- thoughts- and scenes for the most part flow smoothly along. The content is a little dark and rough around the edges. One of the ...more
Adrian Astur Alvarez
This one was disappointing. After reading Jones' earlier collection, The Pugilist at Rest, and being completely blown away, this one, his latest collection of short stories, felt stunted. Sadly, Thom Jones doesn't seem to be growing as an artist. The result is a lot of telling without showing, the repetition of earlier themes or characters without any new development, and a list of unlikable characters paralytically unable to change. Although there are some fine stories here (I liked "40, Still ...more
Dec 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to thank my Fifty-page Rule (I give every book under 400 pages a fifty page trial [400+ gets 100 pgs.:]), otherwise I would have put this book down because the first two stories weren’t very good. However, after that it just sets off a runnin’. Dark, negative stories of broken folks, shitty people making bad decisions due their own selfishness. There’s not a lot of light in this book, or sympathetic characters. But these are great stories, in the end it shows the present and discerning re ...more
Jan 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Thom Jones & Hubert Selby Fans
Thom Jones writes unique tales with a lot of power. This may be a disappointment for readers of A Pugilist At Rest. This book hits a much wider array of subjects. The common reviewer states that Thom writes what he knows about Boxing, Military Vietnam Vets, Mental Hospitals, Janitors, and Elipeptics. Thom assualts the reader with an incredible power. Some of the stories have redemption. What is interesting and flawed about his writing is how he cross-references decades, seemingly intentionally, ...more
J. Kent Messum
I have a very short list of guys I admire and want to emulate when it comes to writing. It basically boils down to Raymond Carver, Cormac McCarthy, and a handful of others. Thom Jones is part of that handful.

Thom's writing hits the mark in almost every way I want to see on the page. This short story collection exemplifies the man's skill, full of raw power and precision, careful craftsmanship and strong executions.

When it came to the individual stories though, some fell flat for me, while othe
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
With each story as interesting as the next, it's hard to drop this book. The settings change constantly: Mexico, Vietnam, Hawaii, psych ward, boxing ring, apartment-turned-mouse laboratory; the characters, though many are unique to their setting, are all displayed with human characteristics. There is violence throughout, especially in the first few stories, but Jones writes in a way that doesn't over-glorify it. Key stories: "You Cheated, You Lied," "I Love You, Sophie Western," "A Midnight Clea ...more
Jones knocked me on my ass when I read The Pugilist at Rest, especially the title story. Here, though, I find that the man has jumped the shark a bit, down to a Pugilist recap in "My Heroic Mythic Journey." "Mouses" was a stunning story, and alone is worth getting a hold of the book for, but a lot of other stories had me literally writing "Oh, stop" in the margin.
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked The Pugilist at Rest better, but this is still pretty good stuff. Maybe even a bit more optimistic than the other. Still, it's all fairly butch stuff: boxers, Vietnam, low-paying jobs, maladjusted veterans, drug use and casual cruelty. Best read in small doses, perhaps, like a strong cheese or something.
Andrew Brown
Thom Jones is clearly a subscriber of writing what he knows, so prepare yourself for a lot of stories about boxing, poor mental health, and military service, some of which can teeter dangerously close to cliches. The sheer number of them can make the limited number of topics rather tedious as well. A competent collection nonetheless, with the eponymous story a particular standout.
Apr 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the war writing's terrible. and a couple of the other stories are weak. but there a handful of super stories. as good as anything written these days. especially the crazy long one that ends the collection.
Ben Brackett
Nov 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thom Jones has this ability to just smash you with his language. This collection felt a little more contemporary than the last one I read by him, and some of the stories felt less like gritty reality, but still really enjoyable in the cadence of the interaction and narration.
Mar 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
I've been trying to "get" the Thom Jones thing and after 'Cold Snap' and 'The Pugilist at Rest' I finally "got" it with This !! Absolutely amazing the journeys he takes you on in these short stories !
Bronco Billy
Très déçu. J'en attendais beaucoup, avec toutes les bonnes critiques et c'est assez décevant. La première nouvelle du recueil est excellente, le reste pas trop mal écrit mais sans trop de fond. Ça fait le malin, mais ça reste peu subtil et surtout très vain (cf la dernière nouvelle).
Sep 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
There are a couple of mercilessly funny stories in this collection which makes it well worth buying, stealing, or checking out of the library.
Adam Cogbill
I wasn't as blown away by Sonny Liston as I was by The Pugilist at Rest...but the ones that are good in here are REALLY good--"Mouses" and "Tarantula," in particular.

Jan 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Raw, wonderful and uneven.
Matt Reese
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my faves. All of Jones's works speak to me. They are visceral and full of humor. The subject matter, boxing etc. is right up my alley.
Gregory Pierce
Oct 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was difficult to get into the first few stories, simply because I lack interest in war stories and boxing. However, once I delved into everything beyond that, I loved the stories.
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thom Jones is a very talented, visceral writer.
Jon Henry
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great collection of vivid short stories. great if you don't have a lot of time to read.
Scott E
3, 3, 3, 2-, 2-, 2-2+, 1, 2+, 2-2+, 2+, 2+, 2+
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Thom Jones (born January 26, 1945) was an American writer, primarily of short stories.

Jones was raised in Aurora, Illinois, and attended the University of Hawaii, where he played catcher on the baseball team. He later attended the University of Washington, from which he graduated in 1970, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, from which he received an M.F.A. in 1973.
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