By David Remnick. You'd think there wouldn't be much left to say about a living icon like Muhammad Ali, yet David Remnick imbues King of the World with all the freshness and vitality this legendary fighter displayed in his prime. Beginning with the pre-Ali days of boxing and its two archetypes, Floyd Patterson (the good black heavyweight) and Sonny Liston (the bad black heavyweight), Remnick deftly sets the stage for the emergence of a heavyweight champion the likes of which the world had never seen: a three-dimensional, Technicolor showman, fighter and minister of Islam, a man who talked almost as well as he fought. But mostly Remnick's portrait is of a man who could not be confined to any existing stereotypes, inside the ring or out. Vintage (1999), English, Paperback: 352 pages.
In extraordinary detail, Remnick depicts Ali as a creation of his own imagination as we follow the willful and mercurial young Cassius Clay from his boyhood and watch him hone and shape himself to a figure who would eventually command center stage in one of the most volatile decades in our history. To Remnick it seems clear that Ali's greatest accomplishment is to prove beyond a doubt that not only is it possible to challenge the implacable forces of the establishment (the noir-ish, gangster-ridden fight game and the ethos of a whole country) but, with the right combination of conviction and talent, to triumph over these forces. --Fred Haefele