Saturday, November 30, 2013

Iron Mike

At the New York Review of Books, Joyce Carol Oates on Mike Tyson's memoir (I want to read this one - I have a nascent boxing obsession that I hope to let ramp up in 2014):
The title Undisputed Truth is a play on the familiar boxing phrase “undisputed champion”—as in “Mike Tyson, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world,” delivered in a ring announcer’s booming voice and much heard during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A more appropriate title for this lively mixture of a memoir would be Disputed Truth. These recollections of Tyson’s tumultuous life began as a one-man Las Vegas act at the MGM casino. It is now shaped into narrative form by a professional writer best known as the collaborator of the “shock comic” Howard Stern and is aimed to shock, titillate, amuse, and entertain, since much in it is wildly surreal and unverifiable. (Like the claim that “I’m such a monster. I turned the Romanian Mafia onto coke” and that Tyson was a guest at the Billionaire Club in Sardinia, “where a bottle of champagne cost something like $100,000.”)

Mostly, Undisputed Truth is a memoir of indefatigable name-dropping and endless accounts of “partying”; there is a photograph of Tyson with Maya Angelou, who came to visit him in Indiana when he was imprisoned for rape; we learn that Tyson converted to Islam in prison (“That was my first encounter with true love and forgiveness”), but as soon as he was freed, he returns to his old, debauched life, plunging immediately into debt:
I had to have an East Coast mansion…so I went out and bought the largest house in the state of Connecticut. It was over fifty thousand square feet and had thirteen kitchens and nineteen bedrooms…. In the six years I owned it, you could count the number of times I was actually there on two hands.
This palatial property is but one of four luxurious mansions Tyson purchases in the same manic season, along with exotic wild animals (lion, white tiger cubs) and expensive automobiles—“Vipers, Spyders, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis.” We hear of Tyson’s thirtieth birthday party at his Connecticut estate with a guest list including Oprah, Donald Trump, Jay Z, and “street pimps and their hos.” In line with Tyson’s newfound Muslim faith, he stations outside the house “forty big Fruit of Islam bodyguards.”
Good description, too, of the 1997 Tyson-Holyfield "ear-biting fracas."


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. What is it about Tyson that allows him to rise so often from the ashes like a Phoenix? If that is answered in the book, then I suppose that makes it worthwhile. On the other hand, given his questionable character in the past, I would be surprised if his book nets him much in the way of either reputation rehabilitation or money.

    BTW, I invite you to now and the visit my new blog enterprise. I'll be talking about teaching and literature, and--on occasion, with your permission--I'll be pointing out interesting postings at your site.