Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: The Barfighter by Ivan G. Goldman

The Barfighter is a book I received for review from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, quite a while ago. I'm miserably behind on my reviews from LT, which probably explains why they haven't given me any books in the last several months. I'm trying to get caught up as quickly as I can, but there are just too many books out there, calling my name!

The Barfighter switches between 1965 and 1985. Our main character is Lee Cheskis, who started out as an Army boxer during the Vietnam War. Boxing for the Army was a way for men who had the talent to avoid being shipped overseas. Lee had the talent. Fast forward to the 80's, and Lee is in anger management, drifting through life, working part-time at the local college to pay the rent. He meets Marvin O'Brien in anger management and, when the boy shows promise as a fighter, decides to become O'Brien's manager to try to make a pro out of him.

Boxing is not my thing. I don't like it, I don't watch or follow it in any way, I basically, like Lee's girlfriend Lorraine, think it's a brutal sport. I don't see the point in putting two men in a ring to beat the shit out of each other and see who falls down first. So I'm not sure what prompted me to select this book for review. Maybe the Vietnam War aspect. I've always been interested in that conflict, but, unfortunately, Lee never even sees Vietnam.

This book is dude lit, if there is such a thing. We women have both chick lit and women's fiction (which I see as two different things, one being lighter and "fluffier" than the other, but both focusing on women and their relationships, usually with other women). This book does the same for men...focuses on their relationships, especially how Lee interacts with his fighter, his former sparring partner during the war, the promoters, trainers and managers he works with and comes across in his work, even random men he beats in bar fights.

The book is largely written from Lee's point of view, however there are brief instances when the point of view (although third person omniscient) switches to Valaitas, Lee's commanding officer during the war and a fellow trainer afterwards, and, at the end, to Quick O'Brien's, Lee's fighter. These switches in point of view were a bit confusing. We're used to seeing Lee's perspective and, when the POV shifted, I had to keep checking back to see if it were Lee or Valaitas who was thinking and doing these things. At the end, when the POV switched to O'Brien, I was puzzled. We'd never seen things from his perspective at all during the course of the novel, so why did it end with him? I have some ideas about that, which involve spoilers, so I don't want to get into them here, but ultimately, I didn't like the POV switch. We didn't know enough about either Valaitas or O'Brien for them to work for me as the main POV. And the ending, from O'Brien's POV, was rather abrupt. I wanted it to be tied up a little more neatly, but that's life I guess.

Overall, the book was good. Three out of five Whatevers. Someone who enjoys boxing more than I do would probably REALLY enjoy the book. There were quite a few typos for my taste, but I have a bound galley, so I'm hoping those were fixed by the time the book went to press. The book would be great for boxing enthusiasts, reluctant readers of the male persuasion, maybe even as a Christmas gift for Dad or an uncle who remember the golden days of boxing.


Megan said...

I'm terribly behind on my LT Early Reviewers books. There are more of them that I haven't read yet than I care to admit. I think one of my New Year's Resolutions is going to have to be to get caught up with them again. They're quickly becoming a constant source of guilt....

Funny to hear you say that you don't know why you picked this one - I feel like I do that all the time with ER. I get a book, and I'm all like "Yay! I got one!" Then I sit down to read it and wonder just why exactly I thought it would be something I would like....

Black Angel said...

What is the ER? if it's what i think it is im quite interested in that, if you can i would be grateful if someone explained that in some detail.