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Omar in the ring

February 3, 2015

In the fascinating One Summer. America 1927 by Bill Bryson, there is paragraph on the return match between the boxing champions of those days Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. It was an enormous event with 150.000 spectators. Dempsey was more or less a straight forward national hero, where Tunney was described by Bryson as follows:

“Tunney promoted himself as an intellectual and a gentleman. He didn’t drink or swear and refused to advertise cigarettes, but he made a lot of money endorsing other things – cars, hats, shoes, pyjamas and walking sticks, among much else. He had an unfortunate tendency to pomposity. He liked to carry a book around with him. When asked what it was, he would reply casually, ‘Oh, just a copy of the Rubáiyát that I am never without.’ This was largely why most people couldn’t stand him. The typical fight fan, as Paul Gallico of the Daily News put it, ‘wanted to see the book-reading snob socked back to Shakespeare’.”

What is interesting in this book is that it gives us an impression of the unbelievable masses of people that attended this sort of events, not only boxing but the parades in honour of Charles Lindbergh’s Atlantic crossing in that same year, as well. Does it relate somehow to the mass hysteria about the rubáiyát of those and the preceeding decades?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 4, 2015 10:06 am

    That’s a fascinating find, Jos. It prompts one to learn more about Gene Tunney. We wonder whether there has there ever been a parody in the form of a ‘Boxing Rubaiyat’?

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